Where Is Obama EPA As NJ Forges Ahead With Rebuilding Plans That Flout Environmental Laws?
Will Obama EPA rubber stamp NJ’s $37 billion request – no strings attached?
As the Sandy Scene shifts from emergency response and demolition to a rebuilding phase, and after Governor Christie has prepared NJ’s $37 billion federal bailout request and named a redevelopment Czar, we were wondering where the Obama EPA is.
We fear that EPA and the federal bailout package are the only things that can slow down the irresponsible Christie runaway train, which is preparing to pour billions of dollars of federal taxpayer money into rebuilding in precisely the same dangerous shore locations that were devastated by Sandy.
We note that more than $3 billion of the bailout sought involves public infrastructure that is funded and regulated by US EPA under federal environmental laws – water, sewer and waste management facilities (and toxic site cleanups).
We’ve seen the implications of failed water infrastructure with billions of gallons of raw sewage discharged to NY Harbor and Raritan Bay by 2 regional sewage plants; a Governor’s emergency water conservation directive; at least a dozen community water systems under boil water advisories (and washout of toxic waste sites).
We note that DEP Commissioner Martin issued an Order that waived state environmental permit requirements for rebuilding that infrastructure, including federally delegated wetlands permits (stunningly, the Martin Order didn’t exclude or even mention compliance with federal requirements – as if EPA did not exist!).
[Note: Don’t feel ao bad EPA, Martin’s Order ignored NJ State law too, e.g. CAFRA exmpts rebuild from permit requirements, but at least it does recognize federal law – NJSA 13:19-5.2:
b. The reconstruction of any development that is damaged or destroyed, in whole or in part, by fire, storm, natural hazard or act of God, provided that such reconstruction is in compliance with existing requirements or codes of municipal, State and federal law; ]
We wrote EPA Region II Administrator Judith Enck on November 6 to request federal oversight of Martin’s waiver (see below), and almost a month later we have received no reply, despite followup requests.
We’ve heard nothing from USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who calls NJ home and should be leading the charge to assure that the shore redelopment plan is done in an environmentally sustainable way that complies with federal law.
The Obama administration included a number of progressive initiatives in the federal stimulus package, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, including new policies and billions of dollars for renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean water, smart electric grid, mass transit, rail, and public housing assistance.
Are they going to simply rubber stamp NJ’s $37 billion request with no strings attached?
Here is my prior letter to EPA RA Enck:
From: “bill wolfe” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “Judith Enck” <Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 11:14:05 AM
Subject: EPA oversight – NJ DEP waives rules for rebuilding infrastructure
Dear Regional Administrator Enck:
Yesterday, NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Robert Martin issued an Administrative Order that waives certain state permit requirements for rebuilding certain public infrastructure,
These waived permit requirements include State CAFRA, stream encroachment, and wetlands permits.
These waivers may violate federal requirements and I strongly urge your immediate review to determine federal compliance.
1) federally approved provisions of the State stream encroachment regulations (i.e. stream buffers for designated Category One waters) implement federally approved and delegated State Surface Water Quality Standards anti-degredation policy and implementation procedures.
These stream buffers – codified in NJ stream encroachment regulations – also constitute EPA approved State “Best Management Practices” for the purposes of federally delegated Clean Water Act programs, including stormwater management and TMDL non-point source control “Load Allocation” programs;
2) State CAFRA permits satisfy certain requirements of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act and Clean Water Act;
3) State wetlands permits satisfy certain federally delegated provisions of the Clean Water Act;
4) Also, waiver of State permit requirements pursuant to the Order may avoid triggering compliance with federal Clean Water Act mandated planning requirements, including Section 303 Water Quality Management Planning and Section 210 facility plans and permit requirements.
As we speak, NJ sewage treatment plants are discharging millions of gallons of raw sewage to state and federal waters. EPA must not allow this disaster to be repeated by allowing NJ to deregulate the reconstruction of infrastructure.
I urge your immediate oversight of this matter and look forward to your timely and favorable consideration.