Friday, March 4, 2016

Legislative showdown nears over NJDEP water rules

Rarely used legislative override could prevent rules from being adopted or force DEP to rescind them

John McKeon
Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex)
In an unusual rebuke to the Christie administration, lawmakers moved a step closer to revoking a proposed rule that critics say will degrade New Jersey’s water and increase flooding, Tom Johnson writes in
NJ Spotlight.
The Democratic-controlled Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee yesterday voted along party lines to order the state Department of Environmental Protection to withdraw a yet-to-be adopted rule proposal that would overhaul flood-hazard, stormwater, and coastal-management regulations it proposed last summer.
The massive revamping of those rules is strongly backed by builders, business interests, and many in the farming community and just as staunchly opposed by environmentalists. To backers, the rules would eliminate redundancy and streamline and simplify complex rules that stifle economic growth, a priority of the DEP since the start of this administration.
“The amendments proposed by DEP threaten the very waters and natural habitats that these regulations are supposed to protect,’’ said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), the sponsor of the resolution (ACR-160).
If the resolution is passed by the Legislature, it would prevent the DEP from adopting the amended rules, or if adopted, to rescind them as against legislative intent. The override provision is a legislative tool rarely used by that body to challenges actions by the executive branch.
An identical resolution passed both houses in the last legislative session, but the DEP did not take any action on it. If the resolution wins approval again from both houses, it would revoke the rules, if adopted.
An identical resolution is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Environmentand Energy Committee on Monday, giving backers hope that the Legislature may approve the measure before it recesses for budget deliberations later this spring.

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