Home > Hot topics, Uncategorized > Murphy DEP Approves PSE&G Request To Eliminate Protections For Wetlands At Salem Nuclear Plant Site

Murphy DEP Approves PSE&G Request To Eliminate Protections For Wetlands At Salem Nuclear Plant Site

Rare DEP Rollback Results In A Huge Loss of Protected Wetlands

Allows PSE&G To Avoid Costly Avoidance, Minimization, and Mitigation Requirements 

Just days before DEP denied a petition by climate groups, the Murphy DEP approved a petition, filed by PSE&G, to deregulate and eliminate protections from 148.9 acres of previously regulated wetlands at their Salem Hope Creek nuclear power plant. You can read the DEP decision here.

Remarkably, PSE&G argued that the wetlands no longer existed – largely because they had destroyed them (emphases mine):

The petitioner [PSE&G] asserts that the existing delineation of the coastal wetland boundary on maps 224-1752, 224-1758, 231-1752, 231-1758, and 238-1752 does not reflect current conditions on site in light of development at the PSEG Nuclear Salem and Hope Creek Generating Station (Block 26, Lot 4, 40.1, 5 and 5.01), as well as historic development and continuous operation of the ACOE Artificial Island Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) Cell No.3 (Block 26, Lot 2).

Get that? Destroy wetlands and then they are no longer wetlands!

Even more remarkably, DEP agreed with PSE&G’s argument:

the Department has determined that approximately 148.92 acres of the site’s mapped coastal wetlands no longer meet the definition of coastal wetlands pursuant to the Wetlands Act of 1970 as they are either developed or are no longer at or below an elevation of one foot above local extreme high water.

DEP either lied or made a big error. PSE&G did NOT claim that the elevation was one foot “above the local extreme high water”. PSE&G claimed that the elevation was above the:

There is a huge difference between the “local extreme high water” level DEP falsely claims and the “calculated local mean higher high tide elevation” that PSE&G claimed. And climate change will alter these elevations as well. So the basis supporting DEP’s decision is factually false and flawed for failing to consider climate impacts. This is an egregious error on DEP’s part, especially for such a huge wetlands rollback.

That is not only a huge loss of protected wetlands – one of the largest individual loss in State history that I’m aware of – it is a rare if not unprecedented rollback in response to a petition from a regulated entity (PSE&G). There are no similar DEP concessions on DEP’s rule petition webpage.

The DEP wetlands rollback saves PSE&G potentially millions of dollars in off-site wetlands mitigation:

Mitigation refers to an activity or activities carried out to compensate for impacts to freshwater wetlands, State open waters or coastal wetlands disturbance caused by regulated activities. Wetland mitigation is currently required under the Freshwater Wetland Protection Act for some general permits and when an applicant receives an individual permit. Under the Coastal Zone Management rules, mitigation is required for all coastal wetland impacts.

If DEP denied the PSE&G petition, PSE&G would have been required to apply for and receive wetlands permits. NJ DEP wetlands regulations require avoidance of wetlands impacts, minimization of wetlands impacts, and mitigation for any losses. Under DEP mitigation requirements (See NJAC 7:7A-11 @page 114)) , PSE&G would have been required to preserve hundreds of acres of off-site wetlands.

Loss of wetlands contributes to flooding. Therefore, by deregulating these wetlands, DEP just abandoned an opportunity to increase wetlands protections via off-site mitigation (and thereby reduce the severe coastal and inland flood impacts NJ just experienced).

Additionally, there are serious concerns about the vulnerability to and risks of flooding and storm surge at this PSE&G nuclear complex. Filling and destruction of wetlands exacerbates these risks. For example, there were NJ legislative hearings and other investigations in the wake of the Fukushima disaster that explored the Delaware river elevations and the height of the intakes at these nuclear plants. These risks are magnified by climate change. Obviously, that critical issue must be addressed, particularly in light of climate change. See: “Japanese Nuclear Accident And US Response” – NEI, Public hearing on (4/7/11 – Trenton)

It seems like when PSE&G says “jump”, the Murphy administration asks “how high?”.

This needless loss of wetlands protections and regulatory rollback is related to the Murphy support of the PSE&G Wind Port.

As such, it represents another and unnecessary huge subsidy to corporate PSE&G and the Murphy administration’s corporate wind program.

Just as remarkably, NJ Spotlight – who is funded by PSE&G – has failed to even report on this horrific DEP rollback, despite writing scores of stories on the Murphy wind program.

Shame on them all.

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