Home > Uncategorized > DEP and “Fast Track” Implicated in Federal Criminal Indictments

DEP and “Fast Track” Implicated in Federal Criminal Indictments

Another Legislator Indicted  for Pushing DEP Approvals – Will Christie Repeat Corruption in Expediting DEP Reviews?

The recent FBI Operation Bid Rig resulted in convictions of NJ legislators for taking bribes to expedite DEP approvals. (for all criminal complaints see this).

Today, the US Attorney issued more indictments involving political intervention in expediting and securing DEP approvals, so lets trace some recent history.

Even before the Corzine administration era Bid Rig scandals, we always knew that efforts to “Fast Track” DEP permits and approvals were fundamentally corrupt, in terms of compromising protections of public health and the environment for the economic profits of special interests and developers.

After Governor McGreevey signed the Fast Track bill into law in July 2004, we led a succesful statewide environmental group campaign, which led directly to Acting Governor Codey’s Executive Order #45 which established a moratorium on implementing the law.

Subsequently, but prior to the Bid Rig indictments, the Encap Meadowlands project became the poster child for abuse of Fast Track and Pay To Play.  Our assessment of DEP’s role in Encap:

“It’s an egregious failure in oversight,” said Bill Wolfe of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

We noted:

Bill Wolfe, of the New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the loan “is a deep conflict of interest” for state environmental regulators who must also approve the validity of EnCap’s plans to close the landfills and clean up ground water in the Meadowlands.

“These limited state funds should be targeted to give us the biggest bang for the buck in terms of reducing water pollution — not more bangs for those with the biggest bucks,” Wolfe said.

Now it looks like those efforts were criminal too.

According to today’s US Attorney’s criminal indictments of former NJ State Senator Wayne Bryant and prominent attorney Eric Wisler:

BRYANT provided a consistent vote for legislation that was favorable to WISLER’s clients, such as a 2004 amendment to the Redevelopment Area Bond Financing Law that facilitated bond financing for the Meadowlands project, appropriations legislation by which the Meadowlands project received more than $200 million in loans from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (“NJEIT”) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”), and “fast-track” legislation that required the NJDEP and other state agencies to expedite their review of applications for permits or have those permits deemed granted. BRYANT also sponsored a bill in 2005 for a $112 million loan from NJEIT to be used for the Meadowlands project.

Bergen Record reporer Jeff Pillets deserves a lot of credit for investigating and breaking the Encap story that led to these indictments – we like to think we helped him do so!

More to follow as details emerge.

[full disclosure: I witnessed attorney Eric Wisler in action in my capacity at DEP during loan negotiations on incinerator loans – federal investigators should look into the Newark incinerator financing.]

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  1. September 29th, 2010 at 01:03 | #1

    Jeff Pillets has written recent articles in The Record regarding shady dealings regarding Xanadu and the Bergen County Improvement Authority. Similar articles can be written regarding any authority that has the power to grant or loan millions of tax dollars. The system is intentionally corrupt. That’s how local politicians finance their campaigns and more (boats, mistresses, vacations, second homes)! It is not unique to NJ but NJ has made it an art form because of the status of state legislators as “part-time” employees who then go and get a local political position. Then you have “power-brokers” to whom politicians all but genuflect. It’s no better under Christie either, who I thought at the very least would see how this game is played. But instead, he has appointed his own set of political overpaid hacks and wants to set up an authority to manage Atlantic City!!!! Maybe he should watch the new HBO show, Boardwalk!!! He’s also pushing the same LSRP cart that Corzine started. NJ residents will have to wait until there are two or three Love Canals or they see coal tar coming through their faucets and then it will dawn on them that maybe it isn’t such a good idea to have polluters/industry/regulated community police themselves. Afterall, this is where “midnight dumping” started! And we have the most Superfund sites. Yet the DEP’s state workers, most of whom have advanced technical or legal degrees, are the scapegoats because some wealthy developer can’t understand why we require certain investigations and conditions be met before they build homes on landfills. When is the public going to wake up and realize that the DEP isn’t holding back “economic growth”? The recession was the result of a lack of regulation of Wall Street and banking, not excess environmental laws. If you listen to 101.5 you’d think the entire state was packed full of idiots.

  2. Bill Wolfe
    September 29th, 2010 at 09:15 | #2

    Hey Bella D – great comment! Come back nmore often and share your insights.

  1. March 18th, 2012 at 10:16 | #1
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