Friday, December 9, 2011

In NJ, a clash over control of environmental regulations

NJDEP Building in Trenton, NJ

Making environmental news today is an interesting piece in PolitickerNJ, where Jim Hooker, the former anchorman for the now defunct NJ Nightly News, asks:

Who's the boss when it comes to regulating developers and the projects they propose. 
The Democrat-controlled Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee on Thursday approved along party lines a measure that basically says the state Department of Environmental Protection is overstepping its bounds with waiver rules it wants for developers and projects.

But Democrats and environmental allies say those rules are set down by statute and the DEP can't set them aside in favor of a different set of rules drawn up by the administration.

Republicans and a number of business and other groups argue it's the DEP's purview to develop its rules and to craft them so they don't run business out of the state.

“We have a history of over-regulating those who want to grow jobs and the economy,” Michael Egenton, a lobbyist for the state Chamber of Commerce, told the committee. As a result, he added, “we've lost businesses and jobs to other states.”

But environmentalists also came out in force to argue against giving the DEP what they say is too much leeway to aid development and business, with threats to environmental safeguards being the fallout.

“We think the department has enough discretion as it is,” said Dave Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation. “While it doesn't guarantee mischief,” he added of the rules change proposal, “it does provide the opportunity for mischief.”

See: Who's the boss? Tug of war in Legislature between executive and legislative powers

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