Monday, November 13, 2017

NJ lawmakers, DEP, bumping heads over Highlands septics

Lawmakers moving to block agency proposal, could use rarely employed tool to rescind rules judged inconsistent with legislative intent

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

The Legislature is moving once again to potentially block a controversial proposed rule that would expand development in the Highlands, a step critics argue would threaten drinking water supplies for six million residents.

A new resolution (SCR-163) has been introduced in the Senate that would prevent the state Department of Environmental Protection from implementing the rule, which is pending adoption by the agency after months of dispute over its impact on the region.

Earlier this summer, final approval was given to an identical resolution stipulating the new rule is inconsistent with legislative intent of the 2004 law creating the Highlands Act, a measure adopted to protect roughly 800,000 acres of forested lakes, hills, and land that supplies drinking water to more than half the state.

But the department refused to amend or withdraw the rule, setting up a confrontation with lawmakers if the resolution wins approval again. Under a rarely used tool, the Legislature can revoke rules that are deemed inconsistent with laws passed by that branch of government.

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