Saturday, September 22, 2012

NJ Gov. Christie delivers one-two punch to enviro bills

New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie yesterday jabbed environmental groups by signing a permit-extension bill they opposed and then landed a haymaker with his veto of a bill banning wastewater and other fracking byproducts from being imported into New Jersey for treatment or disposal.

Environmental groups had lobbied vigorously for the governor to support their anti-fracking bill, A575, that had passed the Assembly (56-19-4) and then cruised through the Senate (30-5).     

In his veto message, Christie said that the legislation raised constitutional issues.

"The lack of frackable shale formations in New Jersey is directly relevant to Assembly Bill No. 575 and is why, based on advice from the Office of the Attorney General, I must return this bill without my signature due to its unconstitutional nature.  Because the nation is one common market in which state lines cannot be barriers to commerce, the Dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution limits a state’s ability to regulate interstate commerce.  Accordingly, the Dormant Commerce Clause precludes states from enacting parochial, isolationist, and discriminatory laws, such as Assembly Bill No. 575.

"Assembly Bill No. 575 seeks to prohibit wastewater, wastewater solids, sludge, drill cuttings, or other byproducts (collectively “Waste”) generated from Fracking “in any State” from being treated, discharged, disposed of, or stored in New Jersey.  Although the bill is, on its face, neutral in that it seemingly applies to Waste from “any State,” the undisputed fact, agreed to by the Legislature, that Fracking “is not occurring and is unlikely to occur in New Jersey,” demonstrates beyond a doubt that this ostensible evenhandedness is
superficial.  Because no Fracking Waste is being produced in New Jersey, nor is it likely to be produced in New Jersey in the foreseeable future, any Waste subject to this bill must be generated out-of-state." 

The NJ Sierra Club, a frequent critic of the governor, charged in a news release following the veto that  Christie had "taken the side of the fossil fuel industry and polluters over New Jersey's drinking water."

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Governor Christie signs permit-extension bill

The permit extension bill, A1338, which green groups opposed, will extend to the close of 2014 numerous local permits presently set to expire at the end of 2012. The development community argued that that change was necessary because the ongoing recession had prevented many projects from getting off the ground. Without the extension, they said, developers would be forced to start from scratch in seeking permits when the economy recovers, adding time and cost to projects that could benefit both the state and local economies.

The bill received impressive backing in both houses: Assembly (66-7-6); Senate (35-1)  

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