Home > Uncategorized > Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe Reiterates Pledge To Revise Key Highlands Clean Water Protections

Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe Reiterates Pledge To Revise Key Highlands Clean Water Protections

The press is reporting, based only on a DEP press release, that the DEP revoked the Christie Highlands septic density rollback, creating the false impression that the Murphy administration is being aggressive in protecting clean water – DON’T BE FOOLED. Here’s the real story.

Back in May, were were appalled by Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe’s Senate confirmation testimony regarding, among many other things, the Highlands and the Christie DEP’s rollback of a key clean water protections known as the “septic density standard”. see:

III)  Highlands

Senator Smith, Chairman of the Environment Committee, led the charge to oppose the Christie DEP rollback of the Highlands Septic Density Standard, which resulted in a rare legislative veto of that rollback as “inconsistent with legislative intent” to prevent the degradation of high quality Highlands waters.

Smith asked McCabe about the status of the Christie Septic Density rule.

Remarkably, McCabe defended the Christie DEP rule, challenged Smith’s premises, downplayed the impact of the rollback, and pledged to re-propose another septic density rule!

Senator Smith:

In the old administration, there was an effort to change the Highlands septic density rules. The legislature .. invalidated those rules. ..Is there any plan to do anything?

McCabe replied:

I don’t think we need to do anything…. We’re back at the drawing board. I’ve taken a look at the science myself.

Frankly, I think what happened was failure to communicate between our scientists and the legislature.

So, we were not surprised that on Friday, DEP issued a misleading press release that purported to revoke the Christie DEP rollbacks, but which basically reiterated that prior testimony pledging to revise the pre-Christie Highlands Septic Density Standard and propose an unnecessary “new standard”.

The DEP press release stated:

The DEP is committed to carrying out the intent of the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, and to using the best available science to establish new septic density standards at a level that prevents the degradation of water quality, requires the restoration of water quality and protects ecological uses.

There is no reason to propose a new standard – the existing standard the Christie DEP sought to rollback is based on best available science, has been upheld by the Courts and strongly supported by the Legislature, and enjoys widespread public support.

Based on the Murphy Highlands record so far (Lisa Plevin as Ex. Director of Highlands Council, focus on voluntary local initiatives, no policy change at DEP, etc), it is highly unlikely that any new septic density standard McCabe proposed would be stricter than the original standard she just reinstated.

Not surprisingly, the naive incompetent hacks at the Highlands Coalition got it wrong, and praised this DEP manipulation.

In turn, that led NJ Spotlight to falsely praise the Murphy DEP is a misleading story today with a partially true headline:

Thankfully, Jeff Tittel got it right:

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, agreed. “If they’re still looking for a compromise, we’re still going to fight,’’ he said. “The legislation was very clear — they must maintain water quality.’’

Still, Ruga noted the revocation of the Christie regulation is significant because it was done before any new permits allowing for more expansive development were issued under the weaker standards.

And what the hell has gotten into Doug O’Malley? He’s lost his edge, and is closer to Ruga’s praise that Tittel’s correct analysis:

Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, called the reversal “a long time coming to turn the page from the Christie era … and the final nail in his attempt to usurp legislative intent’’ of the 2004 law.

Perhaps even worse, the story missed the key to this whole story:

As we wrote, (way back in 2011) – a fact remarkably has gone un-reported by the media – the Christie DEP rollback was driven by a lawsuit by the Farm Bureau:

That [septic density] standard is under litigation by the NJ Farm Bureau. The DEP has filed a request that the Court postpone hearing of the case. The DEP Commissioner has signaled his intent to revisit that standard, which has survived an Administrative appeal and  been upheld by an Administrative Law Judge opinion and is the law of the land and duly promulgated regulation.

The Christie DEP sought to settle that lawsuit by agreeing to rollback the septic density standard.

What has become of that litigation? Is the Christie Martin DEP settlement still driving the change in regulations?

Will someone ASK DEP or shoot me an email and I’ll write about it.

No time to do that research now, from the incredible views of Big Sur from Los Padres National Forest.


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