Home > Uncategorized > $5 Million From NJ Enforcement Settlement With Chrysler Is Not Constitutionally Dedicated To Environmental Protection

$5 Million From NJ Enforcement Settlement With Chrysler Is Not Constitutionally Dedicated To Environmental Protection

NJ Attorney General Again Usurps DEP Leadership

Volkswagen & Chrysler settlements illustrate a huge blunder by green groups & Legislators

NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal recently issued a press release that:

announced that New Jersey will receive approximately $5.3 million as part of multi-state settlements entered into with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Robert Bosch, which centered on allegations the two companies violated both consumer and environmental protection laws.

The AG’s press announcement achieved it’s purpose and predictably generated very favorable press coverage, see: NJ SETTLES WITH FIAT CHRYSLER OVER SOFTWARE THAT CHEATED ON EMISSION TESTS

Curiously, the AG’s press release was posted on the DEP’s website. Once again, AG Grewal not only stole the media thunder, he seems to have usurped DEP Commissioner McCabe’s role, cut DEP out, and to be in charge of the environmental policy implications of such enforcement actions.

But the AG and media reports left out important facts that misled the public.

Specifically, after years of abuses, NJ voters recently approved an amendment to the State Constitution to dedicate revenues from certain DEP enforcement settlements to specific programs to restore natural resources.

According to DEP:

The 2017 amendment to Paragraph 9 of Section II of Article VIII of the New Jersey Constitution directs the NJDEP as to how to invest the natural resource damages it collects from responsible parties.  As appropriated by the Legislature, the Office of Natural Resource Restoration may use these moneys for paying for:

costs incurred by the State to repair, restore, or replace damaged or lost natural resource of the State, or permanently protect the natural resources of the State, or for paying the legal or other costs incurred by the State to pursue settlements and judicial and administrative awards relating to natural resource damages.

During the legislative process of developing that Constitutional amendment, we warned legislators about loopholes that needed to be closed.

In an effort to close that loophole and strengthen the proposed Constitutional Amendment to dedicate revenues from Natural Resource Damage (NRD) settlements, in a November 1, 2016 email to the sponsor Senator Smith (and post) I warned of this problem:

3. Expand the scope to include all enforcement revenues

The SCR is not precise regarding the settlements and revenues covered. For example, would a Water Pollution Control Act or Freshwater Wetlands Act settlement be included within the scope of the SCR? It appears not.

To promote the policy objectives of the SCR, all DEP enforcement revenues could be dedicated.

That warning was ignored – as a result, among others, the recent April 2018 $68 million Volkswagen settlement was not dedicated to environmental restoration.

And once again, proceeds from the $5 million Chrysler enforcement settlement AG Grewal just announced will go to the General Fund and is not dedicated by the 2017 Constitutional Amendment.

The Volkswagen and Chrysler settlements illustrate a huge blunder by green groups and Legislators.

Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight must know this, so I suspect he intentionally omitted this embarrassing fact from his story. Instead of writing about the issue, he closed his story with this misleading paragraph about uses of the money:

Leland Moore, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the state settlement funds will go to support consumer and environmental protection funds. The restitution money to eligible owners is part of a separate class action suit.

As a result of this critical omission, coming at a time that Gov. Murphy is touting his “environmental justice” policy of allocating funds to distressed and overburdened communities, the public and community groups form false expectations that this money will be used to restore the egregious environmental and public health harms they have suffered.

After voting overwhelmingly in favor of amending the State Constitution to stop diversions of hundreds of million of dollars of environmental money – a hugely significant act – we think the people of NJ should know about this.

We think that the members and Foundation funders of incompetent green groups should know this.

Of course, we offer this up as just another example that no good deed goes unpunished. Despite many years of competent public interest advocacy and speaking truth to power, I’ve been effectively blackballed in NJ and relegated to the sidelines.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.