Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bill to squash NJDEP 'waiver' rule set for Senate vote

On Thursday, members of the New Jersey Senate will get their chance to follow the Assembly in passing a resolution requiring the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to rewrite (or withdraw) its controversial waiver rule.

Set to go into effect on August 1, the rule would allow the DEP to waive its regulations and award permits when applicants demonstrate that applicable regulations pose an undue burden, are in conflict with rules of other agencies, or when there is a public emergency or when the permit would result in a net environmental benefit.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin argues that the waiver process will be transparent, with all applications and actions posted prominently on the DEP's web site. The rule will be judiciously applied and he personally will review each case, Martin says.

Builders, developers and major business organizations support the waiver rule, but have as much chance of stopping it on Thursday as the Celtics do against the Miami Heat. 

Why? Both houses of the state legislature are controlled by the Democratic party which hasn't had much luck in derailing any major parts of  the Republican Gov.Chris Christie's agenda so far.

The waiver bill gives them a rare chance to stop a key Christie initiative (recommended, no less, by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's Red-Tape Commission).

Although they've been striving of late to appear more pro-business themselves, the Dems will argue that, in this case, the governor's pro-business agenda is a bit too pro-business.

The majority party is spurred on by a host of environmental groups. They hate the waiver rule and have made news by going to court to block its implementation. 

Never in danger of understating a point, Sierra Club leader Jeff Tittle declared, in an op-ed, that the waiver rule is "part of Christie’s national agenda to sell off New Jersey’s environment to polluters and developers."

Koch Brothers Charles and David
Wow. Is the rule that bad?  Do the Koch brothers have Commissioner Martin on speed-dial?

Will the DEP be approving mountain-top coal mining?

Oh, that's right, Jersey doesn't have real mountains.

But don't you get the feeling that there are bigger forces at work on this one?

It's not really just a case of whether a builder can get a DEP pass to add units to his development by preserving adjacent acres of wetlands, is it?

And isn't that true of almost all politics in 2012?

Tell us what you think in the opinion box  below. If one is not visible, activate it by clicking on the tiny 'comments' link. Signed comments appreciated. Anonymous submissions also accepted.

N.J. DEP 'waiver rule' is broadest attack on environment in decades

Editorial: N.J. DEP 'waiver rule' is a dangerous gamble on our environment

Wetlands expert suspended by DEP after she refuses to approve permit

Groups Sue Over NJ DEP Waiver Rule

NJDEP Rule Provides Relief from Environmental Regulatory Requirements

NJ Assembly voting on 'waiver' bill and a gas from past

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