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Murphy DEP Proposes First Real Regulation

Proposal would increase protections on 749 miles of “exceptional quality” waters

But, it is not nearly as good as it sounds

The Murphy DEP finally proposed a real regulation – real in the sense that it provides enforceable and measurable protections for NJ’s environment. (sorry folks, the RGGI proposal fails to meet both those criteria).

The Murphy DEP just proposed significant expansion of Category One protections for 749 miles of exceptional water quality streams – read the proposal.

The Murphy DEP proposal includes all the C1 candidates (121 miles) identified and listed by Christie DEP in a Nov. 2012 Report, plus 628 additional miles, many  in South Jersey. 

That Christie DEP Report – surprisingly – explicitly validated the prior and original 2003 McGreevey DEP designation methodology. But the Christie DEP never proposed upgrades of the C1 candidates identified by DEP scientists.

The BAD NEWS is that Murphy DEP failed to close huge loopholes in Category One stream buffer protections adopted by Christie DEP rollbacks. This was a perfect opportunity to do that. Therefore, the C1 protections are far less significant and protective than former C1 upgrades.

In addition to the Christie DEP rollbacks to C1 stream buffer protections, we must note that the Murphy DEP proposal would impact only a handful of point source dischargers (i.e. sewage and industrial treatment plants), and therefore have little or no impact on any expansion of those plants and would not trigger pollution control upgrades on current wastewater discharges from those plants (existing permitted capacity is effectively grandfathered from C1 upgrades, which is another kind of loophole in C1 water quality protections).

I can say from personal experience that the McGreevey DEP selected C1 upgrades in a way to avoid impacting point source dischargers, and thereby limiting their ability to expand to permitted capacity, or triggering pollution control upgrades. So I have first hand experience with this abuse. I assume that Murphy DEP continued this abuse and did not reform it.

The Murphy DEP proposal also illustrates unnecessary restrictions imposed by Lisa Jackson DEP’s revisions of the original C1 designation methodology, by limiting the scope of DEP discretion, limiting species, mandating documented presence, & exclusionary criteria regarding waters that were impaired or did not fully attain all surface water quality standards. (for example, presence of wood turtle is not eligible as a basis for C1 designation).

Those Jackson DEP changes in the original MccGreevey DEP methodology clearly made it much harder for DEP to propose C1 upgrades and it limited the number of streams and stream miles that ultimately were proposed.

The new Murphy DEP C1 designation methodology seems to have rejected the prior “integrated ecological assessment” approach and seems more based on the traditional individual DEP water quality data and water quality monitoring silos. Similarly, the DEP’s stand alone “trout” based classification/designation program continues to operate independently and is designed to appeal narrowly to the recreational fishing community. Those are not steps forward. Instead, they perpetuate flaws in the status quo.

Finally, the Murphy DEP did not propose any C1 upgrades on the basis of “exceptional water supply”. I’m not sure what explains that, but our water supply source waters clearly need additional protections from pollution and development.

So, I hope the environmentalists and the media keep these flaws in mind in their praise of this proposal.

It is not nearly as good as it sounds.

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