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Christie Regulatory Moratorium Blocks Major Environmental Protections

DEP Releases Targets – Mask now off the Christie environmental attack.

This week, the Christie Administration took a quiet first step that cleared some of the smoke obscuring the impacts of the moratorium and Regulatory Czar created by Executive Oder #1, as well as the implications of the slogan of “common sense principles” mandated by Executive Order #2.

Christie’s EO #1 put a moratorium in place and targeted a specific list of proposed rules across state government. But it was difficult for the public to identify the 160 or so targeted regulations because they were hidden by how they were cited in Attachment A to EO 1 (it took me over 4 hours to wade through a stack of NJ Registers in the law library last week).

Way back on November 5, 2009, we warned “Christie Proposes Moratorium on Regulations – Signals Major Threat to Environment” – but that analysis was based on a list of DEP proposed rules pending at the time.  While Governor Corzine issued a January Order to extend the expiration date and thus protect some important rules from the Christie Moratorium, Corzine could not shield many other major DEP proposed new rules adn re-adoptioon of existing rules.

Now, we know which DEP rule proposals are impacted by the moratorium and subject to veto by the Regulatory Czar. Now that DEP has published a list of DEP proposed rules listed in EO #1, the facts are now in to vindicate our November claim.

While Christie has complained loudly that the outgoing Corzine administration took last minute actions to limit his options, amazingly, Christie’s Orders are retroactive and block environmental rules proposed by DEP long before the November Gubernatorial election, and thus represent a gross abuse of power.

Christie’s EO 2 created new “principles” that hide behind the misleading slogan of “common sense”. But that slogan now requires that environmental and public health protections be justified based on cost/benefit analysis. This sets up clear conflicts and trade-offs  between protecting clean air and safe drinking water, versus how much the business community must pay to protect them. That kind of debate will get very ugly, real fast.

The Orders also provide new closed door unaccountable opportunities for environmental protections to be attacked by corporate interests and scaled back to federal minimum standards, unless they can surmount arbitrary new political hurdles set by the Regulatory Czar. “Let’s make a deal” was only a 1960’s TV show – but the Regulatory Czar’s secret deals are real and will not be televised.

The Department of Environmental Protection quietly posted on the DEP website a public notice that confirms our prior criticisms that Christie Orders represent an all out assault on environmental protections. DEP posted a list of 12 major environmental regulations specifically targeted in and blocked by EO 1. The notice also identifies some of the new Christie policies that hide behind the “Common sense” slogan in EO #2.

The list is significant and includes the following rules that are blocked under the moratorium and subject to veto by Regulatory Czar Guadagno: :

  1. Safe Drinking Water Act Rules; Private Well Testing Act Rules; and Regulations Governing the Certification of Laboratories and Environmental Measurements – Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for Perchlorate. See 41 N.J.R. 1128(a); March 16, 2009.  (DEP Docket No. 02-09-02/549)
  2. Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules – Determination of Substantial Reliance on a Letter of Interpretation.  See 41 N.J.R. 1314(a); April 6, 2009.  (DEP Docket No. 04-09-03/710) [Note: we oppose this rule – it is NOT a pro-environment rule, but it should not be killed via EO or by an unaccountable Regulatory Czar]
  3. Processing of Damage Claims Pursuant to the Sanitary Landfill Facility Closure and Contingency Fund Act – Readoption with amendments.  See 41 N.J.R. 2759(a); July 20, 2009.  (DEP Docket No. 10-09-06/703)
  4. Coastal Permit Program Rules; Coastal Zone Management Rules; Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules – Wind and Solar Energy.  See 41 N.J.R. 3168(a); September 8, 2009. (DEP Docket No. 12-09-08/734)
  5. Water Pollution Control Act Rules – Readoption.  See 41 N.J.R. 3776(a); October 5, 2009. (DEP Docket No. 13-09-09/728)
  6. Natural Areas and the Natural Areas System Rules – Readoption with amendments.  See 41 N.J.R. 4154(a); November 16, 2009. (DEP Docket No. 15-09-10/735)
  7. Air Quality Management – Sulfur in Fuels.  See 41 N.J.R. 4156(a); November 16, 2009. (DEP Docket No. 14-09-10/676)
  8. Safe Drinking Water Act Rules – Readoption.  See 41 N.J.R. 4381(a); December 7, 2009. (DEP Docket No. 17-09-11/749)
  9. Underground Storage Tanks – Readoption.  See 41 N.J.R. 4384(a); December 7, 2009.  (DEP Docket No. 16-09-10/624)
  10. Surface Water Quality Standards – Nutrient Policies; Phosphorus Criteria.  See 41 N.J.R. 4587(a); December 21, 2009. (DEP Docket No. 21-09-11/754)
  11. Forestry – Readoption.  See 42 N.J.R. 14(a); January 4, 2010. (DEP Docket No. 24-09-12/687)
  12. Safe Drinking Water Act Rules – Environmental Enforcement Enhancement Act amendments and Permit Efficiency Review Task Force amendments.  See 42 N.J.R. 17(a); January 4, 2010. (DEP Docket No. 19-09-11/751)

We believe that the Christie Orders are not only very bad policy for NJ, but violate state and federal administrative and environmental laws.

We hope the Senate Judiciary Committee probes these legal and environmental policy issues in detail during DEP nominee Bob Martin’s upcoming confirmation hearing.

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