Home > Uncategorized > Too Harsh for the Op-Ed Page

Too Harsh for the Op-Ed Page

Below is a proposed Op-Ed I submitted to all the major newspapers in NJ – it was a reply to an Op-Ed they published by NJBIA supporting the Christie environmental rollbacks.

There was no interest in running it, so I guess they like to hear from the same voice they publish in their news stories – and not a harder edged attack on corporate NJ:

Christie and Business Community Scapegoating Environmental Protections as Harming Economy – Have They No Shame?

Voices in the business community are clamoring to use the economic crisis as a pretext to rollback NJ’s strict environmental standards.  Like good propagandists, they mobilize “disaster story” anecdotes and half-truths to promote self-interested objectives.

And they have a receptive ear in Governor Christie, who after only 1 hour in office issued a series of sweeping executive orders to freeze rules, create a Regulatory Czar, and then rollback environmental and public health protections to minimum federal standards.

Although reported favorably in the press as a reasonable effort to impose a 90 day “time out” and form a “Red Tape Review Commission” to review State regulations and streamline government to promote economic development, Christie’s Orders represent a radical departure from NJ’s policy, legal, and political traditions.

Executive Orders 1-4 take a very old page out of the Chamber of Commerce and  chemical industry playbook. Those groups have a long and sordid history and well-documented track record of lobbying to delay, weaken or even kill environmental rules. They do this by establishing all sorts of procedural hurdles and back door opportunities to work their way behind closed doors.

Business lobbyists consistently exaggerate the costs of curbs on pollution and restrictions on development. They ignore public health and environmental benefits, and use slogans like “sound science” to manufacture bogus political disputes that “sound like science”. They bring political pressure to bear in order to exploit pseudo-academic policy analysis techniques, such as cost benefit analysis, and advocate other  so called “common sense” principles, like rolling back NJ’s strong projections to minimum federal standards.

What these ideological short sight voices ignore however, are facts and the democratic preferences of the people of the state.

The Wall Street driven economic collapse is a prime example of what happens when government regulatory protections are rolled back and free market forces are allowed to run wild.

Under that kind of conservative ideological policy, short-term private greed displaces any notion of what’s in the long run public interest.  Recent history shows that the economic collapse we are now experiencing invariably follows in the wake.

But NJ’s environment is at a tipping point and we can ill afford to rely on the same deregulatory policies that could cause irreversible environmental collapse, on top of the current economic collapse.

As a result of our industrial legacy and the historical development as a regional suburb of NY and Philadelphia, NJ is faced with enormous environmental challenges.

The environmental indicators that justify NJ’s stringent environmental and public health regulatory protections are uniformly dire.

NJ is the nation’s most densely populated state with the most cars, most development, most pavement and most toxic pollutants per square mile. NJ’s precious shore is highly over-developed and vulnerable to storms and sea level rise. Yet we continue to lose more than 15,000 acres of forests, farms, and wetlands per year to new development. NJ’s racially and economical segregated urban communities bear unjust disproportionate pollution and health burdens.  Contradicting lots of empty political rhetoric about reducing emissions, NJ’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise steeply. NJ has the most toxic Superfund sites and more than 20,000 other toxic sites. Communities are threatened by at least 15 chemical facilities, where an accident or terror attack could kill more than 100,000 residents. In NJ, more than 65% of streams and rivers and 100% of lakes fail to meet water pollution standards and lack cleanup plans. Statewide Fish Consumption Advisories warn that fish and shellfish are too toxic to eat. Over 12% of residential water wells fail health standards. The entire state does not meet health based standards for air pollutants ozone, fine particulates, and numerous cancer causing toxic chemicals; and not surprisingly NJ has the nation’s highest cancer and asthma rates.

No wonder, according to a recent Monmouth University/Gannett poll, 79% of NJ residents – on a bipartisan and socio-economic basis – oppose rollbacks on NJ’s environmental regulations as a solution to the state’s dual fiscal and economic crises.

A recent economic study found that NJ’s “natural capital” – its wetlands, forests, farms, fisheries, beaches, and rivers – provide almost $20 billion per year in economic benefits.

Those capital resources are protected by the DEP at a cost of less than $60 million to NJ taxpayers through the General Fund – that less than one tenth of 1% of the $30+ billion State budget!

So business interests should stop their cynical attempts to exploit people’s fears and insecurities in a time of economic crisis by scapegoating NJ’s strong environmental regulations and the professionals at DEP who deliver enormously valuable and cost effective services to the people of NJ.

Bill Wolfe is Director of NJ Chapter of PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

He is a former 13 year career planner and policy analyst at DEP.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
You must be logged in to post a comment.