Assembly Approves Bill To Keep DEP From Waiving Environmental Regulations

TRENTON – A Democrat-sponsored measure aimed at halting the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from circumventing existing environmental regulations was approved 48 to 30 by the full Assembly on Thursday.

“The DEP does not have the statutory authority to promulgate one set of rules and regulations in order to waive other rules and regulations previously adopted as a result of legislation,” said Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Not only does this go against the very purpose of creating legislation, but it also has the potential to harm the environment and the residents of this state.”

The resolution (ACR-37) notes that the rules and regulations DEP adopted to establish a procedure to waive existing rules are not consistent with the original intent of the Legislature.

The waiver rule, adopted by the DEP last spring, would allow the DEP Commissioner to exempt companies from longstanding environmental regulations, potentially harming the environment as well as workers employed in hazardous industries who depend on safe working conditions.

“Today the Legislature took an important step in the protection of the environment in the state of New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Waiver Rule is one of the worst and most destructive DEP rules ever written. This rule gives the DEP Commissioner full control to take the side of polluters, developers, and special interest over the health, safety, and the environment for the people of New Jersey. This effects every place in New Jersey from High Point to Cape May and every aspect of the environment from clean air, clean water, open space, and toxic clean ups. The Legislature needs to use the oversight process to block this rule for going forward.”

The measure approved Thursday would give the DEP Commissioner 30 days from the date of transmittal of the resolution to amend or withdraw the proposed rules and regulations, or the Legislature may, by passage of another concurrent resolution, exercise its authority under the Constitution to invalidate the rules and regulations in whole or in part.

The measure now awaits final legislative approval by the full Senate. Once approved, the resolution will then be sent to Governor Christie and the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, who will then have 30 days to amend or withdraw the department’s proposed rule.

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