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Legislature Will Veto Gov. Christie’s DEP Flood Hazard Rules

Assembly Votes to Veto – Senate Committee Approves Veto

Legislators Join Environmentalists At Statehouse Rally

Paulinskill River (a C1 water)

Paulins Kill (a C1 water)

We as a legislature have consistently supported the sanctity of buffers for our C1 streams. These are the purest waters we have in the State of NJ.  …

Kudos to Bill Wolfe. We heard all kinds of testimony over these three meetings. But the one that stuck in my mind is that there’s no guarantee that they’ll be no deterioration in the State’s water quality standards if there’s development in the first 150 feet of buffer of C1 streams. That’s the critical missing legislative intent item for me.   ~~~ Bob Smith, Senate Environmental Committee Chairman (6/16/16 – vote to pass SCR 66).

Democratic legislators found their voice – and their spines – yesterday by deploying a rarely used Constitutional power, and voted to take final steps toward a legislative veto of Governor Christie’s DEP rules that rolled back protections for water quality and rules to reduce flood risks.

The Senate is scheduled to put the final nail in the coffin next Thursday, June 23 (* Update: according to Senator Lesniak – but as of 6/21 4 pm, the Board list does NOT include SR66).

The Senate Environment Committee started the day off by releasing the Resolution for full Senate approval and the full Assembly voted to approve their version (ACR160) later in the afternoon by a party line vow of 47-24-5 (shame on all those partisan Republicans who STILL loyally defend Gov. Christie and fail to protect critical water resources).

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Smith’s reasoned voice carried the day, as he questioned DEP’s credibility, criticized the lack of public involvement in developing the rules, and explained why the DEP proposal violated legislative intent “to protect the sanctity of buffers of our C1 streams”.

Importantly, Smith noted the critical importance of water quality standards – in explaining this key regulatory issue, Smith then went out of his way to praise the testimony of yours truly (take that, Bob Martin and Dennis Toft!)

At a noontime rally, after excoriating the Christie DEP’s record (at one point, calling DEP the “Department of Exxon Protection”) Senator Lesniak pledged that the Senate would pass the Resolution next Thursday, June 23.

Still, in notes and/or phone calls of thanks to Smith & Lesniak who led the charge, folks should urge Senate President Sweeney to post the Resolution on June 23.

At the rally, Assemblyman McKeon and Spencer were similarly critical of Governor Christie’s environmental record.

Spencer kept it simple, highlighting the critical importance of water to everyday life and invoking the Flint water crisis, she concluded “the [Christie] rule is wrong” – but McKeon had the quote of the day.

Stressing the importance of strict regulations to protect our precious water resources, McKeon said  (PolitickerNJ):

“We can’t blow it. This administration will be gone in a year and half.” But New Jersey’s water must carry on into the lives of future generations.

Yes! It was heartening to hear legislators speaking their mind in such clear support of environmental and public health regulatory protections. It was almost as if they were rediscovering their legacy and regaining agency and voice.

And now it’s onward toward a similar veto of Christie DEP’s proposed rollback of the Highlands Septic Density standards and for affirming Senator Smith’s commitment to enforcing water quality standards and the Clean Water Act to block destructive pipelines.

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