Wednesday, February 17, 2016

NJDEP and Dems grapple in a rematch over flooding rules

Flooded streets early Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Sea Isle City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

A second showdown between Democrats in the state Legislature and the Department of Environmental Protection is brewing in the ongoing battle over proposed changes to flood hazard control rules, David Giambusso reports in Politico New Jersey

During the last session, the Senate and Assembly approved a "legislative veto" that marked the first step in preventing the DEP from relaxing certain restrictions for development near certain waterways. The DEP had 30 days to either address the Legislature's concerns or ignore them. They chose the latter and now the Legislature must vote again to prevent the agency's new rules from being enacted.

The DEP proposed the rules change as a much-needed streamlining of regulations it maintains eliminates red tape while still providing for the protection of the waterways. Democrats in Trenton and environmental advocates say the rules change is a giveaway to developers that will compromise the streams and exacerbate an already chronic flooding problem in New Jersey.

The legislative veto requires only a simple majority so it should be an easy sell for state Sen. Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John McKeon who sponsored the first resolutions in their respective chambers. But in an interview, Lesniak said he expected the DEP to ignore even the second vote, and anticipates a court battle over the regulations.

"Since they totally ignored the first one, when we do the second one, I expect them to totally avoid it again," said Lesniak, a Democrat from Union County. "I will monitor any permits that may be issued ... and go to court to stop each and every one of them.

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