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Another Red Tape Rollback Bill Moved Out of Committee Today

Chamber of Commerce and Realtors Back Red Tape Commission Bill Seeking Permit Dismantling 

Bill Approved With No Enviro Opposition, No Testimony, and No Discussion

More “Regulatory Relief “& Rebuild Madness!

The Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee today released another bad Christie Red Tape Commission bill, again sponsored by Christie regulatory point man, Assemblyman Burzichelli (see A3320).

The bill specifically targets DEP permits

This bill implements one of the findings of the “Red Tape Review Commission Findings and Recommendations” report issued February 2012. The report states the following, on page 27:

DEP’s increased usage of general permits and general operating  permits is another success worthy of replication. These pre- approved permits cover minor activities, do not require extensive  submittal of data, and allow departmental staff to focus greater attention on individual permits which encompass more complex activities. Though DEP has made notable progress in this regard DEP, as well as all other permit issuing departments and agencies,  should expand the use of such permits.”

The expanded use of general permits and “permits-by-rule” is also encouraged in the Department of State’s “Permit Review Annual Report,” issued  March 2012, in response to the provisions of P.L.2011, c.34.

The bill was supported by the NJ Chamber of Commerce and the NJ Association of Realtors.

They did not testify openly on the bill – “support with no need to testify” – and there was no environmental opposition.

I don’t know where the environmental lobbyists were, because there was no competing committee to divert their attention. As I previously wrote, this is an important committee that has done great damage to the regulatory fabric already, and that the enviro’s and the press neglect.

The bill (A3320) would further expand on DEP “permit streamling” and provide additional Christie “regulatory relief” via what are known as “general permits” (GP’s).

The bill is another sad indication that the Democratic leadership in the Assembly has bought into the business community’s and Christie Administration’s false premises and attack on DEP and environmental regulations as “job killing red tape”.

The bill encourages the use of more GP’s and mandates that when a GP is not legally authorized or is flat out prohibited, that the DEP target and report it to the legislature, thereby setting up a dangerous process for further rollback legislation.

Here is the bill summary:

This bill also provides that if a State agency identifies a permit that could be administered through an expedited process, such as through a general permit, but finds, as a result of statutory law, that it does not have the necessary authority to establish an expedite process for that particular permit, the head of the State agency would send written notice of this finding to the President of the  Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the chairs of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee and the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, or their successors and the Secretary of State or the Governor’s designee.

A GP involves far less rigorous DEP permit review, less monitoring, less enforcement oversight, less mitigation, and less opportunity for public comment.

Although justified  by political slogans like “streamlining” and “cutting red tape”, it really is a form of deregulation, designed to rollback environmental protections and limit the opportunity for the public to participate in government decisions.

A legitimate GP is supposed to be limited to minor activities with little potential for environmental or public health impact.

In recent years, due to loss of staff, reduced budgets, and growing and intense political pressures to dismantle environmental programs and deregulate, DEP has been expanding – across the board – the scope and types of GP’s  that are allowed.

But the Christie DEP has gone much further than expanding the use of GP’s.

What has been, at times, a legitimate administrative “streamlining” process has now morphed into what is now explicitly justified as “regulatory relief” from “job killing bureaucratic red tape”.

In the case of emergency rule promoting SANDY rebuild, DEP went way beyond GP’s and adopted an even weaker form of permit oversight known as “permit by rule” (PBR – not Past Blue Ribbon!).

A PBR is essentially voluntary compliance, because no actual permit application is submitted to DEP and no effective public review and opportunity for public comment are provided.

Here’s how DEP described a PBR in the Sandy rule - especially note the twisted logic that reduction in DEP oversight somehow translates into  ”increased public safety, minimization of property damage, reduced need for relief measures, and reduced costs for permits, and thus will have a net positive economic impact.

The expansion of permits-by-rule will also reduce the number of individual permit applications prepared by prospective applicants, which will generate a savings in preparation costs and application review fees. Given the above, the Department anticipates that the proposed amendments will result in increased public safety, minimization of property damage, reduced need for relief measures, and reduced costs for permits, and thus will have a net positive economic impact. (@ p. 17)

A permit by rule means that rebuilding can occur with virtually no prior DEP review or public hearings, public awareness of involvement of any kind.

Lets focus on these kind of anti-regulatory bills and block them before they are posted for an Assembly floor vote.

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