Tuesday, May 2, 2017

NJDEP, state legislature butting heads over Highlands

DEP rule would boost number of septic systems; lawmakers argue that is against original intent of law protecting 800,000-acre preserve

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:
The Legislature and Christie administration are heading in polar-opposite directions on how to manage growth in the New Jersey Highlands, the source of drinking water for at least five million residents.
A Senate committee yesterday approved a resolution that aims to block a new rule — quietly adopted last week by the Department of Environmental Protection — that would open up some of the most sensitive land in the Highlands to development by allowing more septic systems to be deployed.
The rule, signed by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and expected to be published early next month, is opposed by most of the state’s environmental organizations, who view it as being inconsistent with the 13-year-old law protecting more than 800,000 acres of forests, rolling hills, and waters in the Highlands.
The resolution (SCR-148) also concludes the new rule violates provisions of the original law creating the Highlands, particularly by leading to degradation of water quality in the region. If passed by both houses, it could lead to rescission of the regulation, the latest bid by the administration to weaken the state’s stringent regulations to protect land, air, and water, according to critics.
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