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Dissenting Report Rips Christie DEP Commissioner Martin On Environmental Justice

Basis for NJEF Endorsement of Christie Called Into Question

I wrote yesterday about the total fraud and failure of the Christie Administration to develop and implement what the Governor himself promised on environmental justice.

Christie used this promise to secure a political endorsement by the NJ Environmental Federation. As a candidate seeking NJEF’s endorsement, Christie promised to develop and implement:

standards and guidelines … so that cumulative and disproportionate impacts will carry much greater weight in our [DEP] decisions.

When I wrote that, I was unaware of last year’s dissenting Report by the Clean Air Council on precisely that issue. I had never read about it in any news reports, and it was buried at the very end – literally the last 2 pages on the Council’s Report, and I missed it.

So, given my focus yesterday, before I write about what went on at today’s Clean Air Council annual public hearing, I thought it very important to print last year’s Council’s dissenting Report to DEP Commissioner Martin in its entirely.

It is unprecedented for the Council to issue a dissenting report – and the dissent itself is extraordinarily well written and right on the mark. I completely agree with it.

A Report of this significance should not be buried, but made a rallying cry across the state, particularly in disproportionately burdened urban communities.

The dissent also makes the case for the NJEF to revoke the Christie endorsement even stronger (see page 36).

Addendum Reflecting a Clean Air Council Dissenting Position

To: Honorable Commissioner Bob Martin

From: Nicky Sheats, Esq.,Ph.D., Hearing Chair John Elston

Howard Geduldig, Esq. Robert Laumbach, M.D. Pam Mount
Richard E. Opiekun, Ph.D. Joseph Spatola, Ph.D.

RE: Addendum Reflecting a Clean Air Council Dissenting Position

The above-listed members of the Clean Air Council (CAC), in response to your request made at the July 13, 2011 CAC meeting for our dissenting position, respectively offer the following addendum:

    1. The dissenters recommend that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (Department) conduct robust and transparent stakeholder meetings that result in the development and implementation of a coherent cumulative impacts policy. This policy should be incorporated in the Department’s decision-making process, including permitting, in the near future. While we do not oppose continued research into the cumulative impacts of toxic air contaminants on sensitive subpopulations and the general public, we cannot support the recommendation that additional research substitute for the actual development and implementation of a coherent policy. The dissenters find such a recommendation antithetical to good public policy while our citizens, particularly those in communities Of Color and low-income neighborhoods, bear the burden of continuing, and often increasing, threats to public health and welfare.

2. While stationary sources, in the face of strong state regulation and enforcement, have reduced their emissions, some continue to place a toxic load on our publicly- held air resource and further reductions are warranted especially in and near neighborhoods already overburdened with pollution. The USEPA study on toxic air contaminants at Paulsboro High School, which is proximate to an operating oil refinery and a manufacturing facility, contains results that according to USEPA “indicate the influence of pollutants of concern that are the focus of EPA actions nationwide.” The dissenters believe the USEPA study suggests that risk levels near the school may be high enough, especially when viewed from a cumulative perspective, to warrant the implementation of long-term risk reduction efforts by DEP and USEPA. However, the specific conditions and circumstances at Paulsboro High School, or any other single location, cannot be representative of local cumulative impacts on communities throughout the state.

3. The dissenters recommend that the Department continue to exercise its leadership in fulfilling its primary mission — environmental protection. We do not support the narrow contention that the purpose of the Clean Air Council public hearing was merely to review already-implemented federal and state action that could be replicated in New Jersey for recommendation to the Commissioner. However, the dissenters do recommend that New Jersey continue to review measures protective of public health being considered and implemented by other states, the federal government, and the international community. Also, where appropriate and feasible, the Department should continue to move forward to protect public health and welfare, even if other governmental entities are not in a position to act. Others will eventually follow New Jersey’s lead and significant positive public health and welfare benefits will accrue to our state in the interim.

4. The statement that a New Jersey cumulative impacts policy implemented prior to a similar federal policy would place our State at a competitive disadvantage, is conjectural. No testimony was taken at the public hearing nor was any evidence reviewed supporting this contention. The dissenters believe that it is at least as likely that a coherent cumulative impacts policy coupled with other environmental measures that result in a healthy environment with livable cities would be a significant component of, and would contribute to, long-term economic growth.

5. The dissenters disagree with the qualification attached to a significant number of recommendations in the report stating that the Department “could [take various beneficial actions] if staffing and resources allow.” We believe that it is our responsibility to make sound, viable recommendations, leaving it to the Department to appropriately adjust its resource prioritization as warranted. In response to these recommendations, the robust stakeholder process that is one of the recommendations, and further research-based findings, the redirection of existing resources and/or the provision of additional resources may be indicated.

6. Finally, the dissenters thank the Commissioner for his willingness to hear from us and welcome the opportunity to respond to any further questions that he may have.

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