A newspaper recently reported, “The state Department of Environmental Protection last week announced it was proposing a rule that would, in effect, allow the agency to ignore its other rules and regulations when DEP leadership believes it would help make New Jersey more pollution-friendly.”
Actually, I fibbed. The DEP used the words ”business-friendly,” but isn’t “pollution-friendly” just the flip side of DEP’s coin? Nullifying DEP’s regulations by politically motivated fiat only helps polluters, not the economy, and certainly does not protect our health nor promulgate democracy as we know it.
Why is the state promoting profits – and pollution? All New Jersey’s waterways are so polluted the DEP advises us not to swim in or fish from them. Newark, Raritan and Barnegat Bays are so polluted harvesting shellfish is prohibited. The air quality in all 21 counties fails to meet the minimum federal clean air standards. We have more than our share of Superfund sites, and the state is so overdeveloped that about 50 percent of the land is so impermeable that rain water runs off the compacted surfaces, flushing pollutants into streams, eroding stream banks, and destroying marine habitat, instead of seeping down to recharge underground water supplies. And speaking of water, DEP officials predict the state’s rate of development is beginning to outstrip the state’s water supplies.
If that isn’t bad enough, state officials for decades have been relentlessly cutting DEP’s staff, and developers cheer the DEP’s decimation while hypocritically complaining it takes too long to process permit applications.
Adding to this legacy of endangering our health by emasculating the DEP, state officials now falsely claim we must further weaken DEP safeguards to stimulate our economy, when they fully know well that greedy excesses of the financial community, not excessive environmental safeguards, led to our recession.
The original quaint purpose of New Jersey’s government – that it should keep New Jersey “citizen-friendly,” or more importantly today, “citizen-healthy,” is now being eroded by inane and unsubstantiated excuses designed to reduce the health and environmental standards that protect the state’s 8.8 million citizens.
That is why the New Jersey Friends of Clearwater opposes Gov. Chris Christie’s latest assault on our health and safety by allowing his less than “environment-friendly” DEP Commissioner, Bob Martin, to jettison -- at his whim -- almost 50 years of environmental safeguards whenever a developer finds them inconvenient. Christie’s warped idea of democracy is to create a political autocrat who can, based on a single developer’s request, nullify any environmental standards.
Gov. Christie recently has taken positive steps to advance some environmental protections. But his audaciously undemocratic and probably unconstitutional proposal mocks his previous promises as he tries to gut all our hard-fought-for health and environmental protections – while falsely pretending to stimulate the economy.
We don’t need politically appointed autocrats; for about 224 years, a government with laws, rules, and regulations has worked just fine.
Joellen Lundy, President
N.J. Friend of Clearwater
Red Bank NJ