Thursday, January 11, 2018

NJ lawmakers flush Christie's Highlands septic plan

Scott Fallon reports for The Record:

A plan by the Christie administration to allow more development in the most protected regions of the Highlands was shot down by the Legislature late Monday, blocking what many saw as a serious threat to an area that supplies drinking water to millions.

The resolution approved by the Senate and Assembly essentially turns back a plan that would have permitted as many as 1,145 more septic systems to be built in New Jersey's mountain region dotted with reservoirs and aquifers. 

“The Legislature showed its commitment to the citizens it represents by this action, which is intentionally an arduous procedure and a last resort,” said Elliott Ruga, policy director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

The resolution passed the Senate 21-16 and the Assembly 41-25 during a dizzying legislative session that saw 200 measures approved in one day. It essentially says the septic plan is invalid because it defies the intent of the 2004 Highlands Act, a law that severely limited development to protect drinking water.

Read the full Record story

Tom Johnson, in NJ Spotlight, writes:

The action represents a huge win for the conservation community, which has lobbied intensely against the rule change by the Department of Environmental Protection since it was proposed a year-and-a-half ago.

In revoking the rule, the lawmakers agreed with opponents who contended the rule allowing greater density of septic tanks in parts of the 880,000-acre region is inconsistent with the legislative intent of the original law creating the New Jersey Highlands.

“Not only is the Highlands region the source of drinking water for more than half of our residents, but it also contains precious natural resources, such as clean air, forest and wetlands, pristine watersheds, and many significant historical sites and recreational opportunities,’’ said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), a sponsor of the resolution.

The state constitution gives the Legislature the authority to block new rules, but the tool has been used only once in recent years, overturning a civil service regulation adopted by the Christie administration. A previous bid to rescind another environmental rule fell short last year.

Read the full NJ Spotlight story

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