Home > Uncategorized > NJ Stormwater Utility Bill Includes Stealth Privatization Provisions

NJ Stormwater Utility Bill Includes Stealth Privatization Provisions

Will Gov. Murphy Follow Christie & Sign Another Major Infrastructure Privatization Bill?

Over a decade ago, NJ Democratic legislators privatized the DEP toxic site cleanup program, a radical reality just dawning on many NJ residents with toxic sites in their communities, see:

More recently, the NJ Democratic legislature passed – and Republican Governor Christie signed into law – controversial bills that authorized the privatization of public water supply and wastewater treatment systems.

They’ve done that again this week, passing legislation (S1073) which would authorize the creation of local and county stormwater utilities.The bill is now on Gov. Murphy’s desk.

For the dominant narrative on the bill, read the NJ Spotlight story, which plays up the Republican “rain tax” slogan, but ignores the privatization issue:  SPLIT LEGISLATURE GIVES THUMBS-UP TO STORMWATER RUNOFF CONTROLS

(NJ Spotlight repeatedly has turned a blind eye on the privatization controversy, possibly due to potential conflicts of interest).

This expansion in privatization comes at a time when the NJ Courts have recognized the implications of privatization of essential governmental regulatory functions, see:

If it’s bad public policy for DEP to outsource and privatize their regulatory responsibilities, it may be legal but it is equally bad policy for the NJ Legislature to do so.

And once again, the “elite charade” “green” organizations that backed the bill – many aligned with the “Keep It Green” Foundation funded faction  either overtly support privatization of public infrastructure, or they got duped again, because there has been no mention of this massive expansion of privatization of public infrastructure and core governmental functions.

(An astute reader just reminded me that ALS supported the bill and was involved in drafting it. The bill would codify a scheme ALS was involved in. Specifically, ALS benefited financially via a huge Christie DEP Grant to retrofit stormwater impounments in Barnegat Bay (a voluntary private scheme to avoid compliance with the the federal Clean Water Act “TMDL” regulatory cleanup program). ALS basically skimmed off a chunk and funneled the DEP grant money to a private contractor, so they fully support these privatization schemes.

Similarly, Dodge Foundation funded corporate NJ Future and NJLCV both supported the bill. Those groups essentially front for private water corporations like Suez, under the fake astroturf group, NJ Water Works.)

Here is the privatization provision, from Section 6:

or may enter into a contract with a private firm for the operation or improvement of works for the collection, storage, treatment or disposal of stormwater, and the cost and expense of such collection, storage, treatment and disposal.

That provision would allow not only local and county governments, but also local sewer authorities – who already operate with little transparency or public oversight – to enter into multimillion dollar taxpayer and/or ratepayer backed contracts with engineering firms or private water corporations – (fueling their “mission creep” into stormwater management).

The potential for graft and abuse is virtually unlimited.

If the bill is signed into law as passed by the legislature, expect your local taxes to pad the profits of the big engineering firms and water companies that contribute to the Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill.

The management of stormwater involves protection of public safety (from flooding) and public health (from water pollution and impacts on drinking water).

Protection of public safety and public health are essential government functions that should not be privatized, outsourced, and influenced by the profit motives or priorities of private corporations.

People should call on Gov. Murphy and demand that he conditionally veto the bill to eliminate the privatization of critical public infrastructure.

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