TRENTON – Senator Raymond Lesniak and Senator Bob Smith on Thursday acted to prevent the Christie administration from weakening water quality regulations with administrative rules that would expose New Jersey’s waterways to more contaminants, threaten fish habitats and increase the risk of flooding.
Lesniak introduced a concurrent resolution, also sponsored by Smith, who is chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, that would reverse the changes the state Department of Environmental Protection wants to make to the Flood Hazard Area Control Act regulations.
“These so-called rule changes would eliminate important protections for our waterways, degrading water quality, endangering fish habitats and increasing the risk of flooding,” said Lesniak. “Clean water is one of our most precious resources.”
“A thriving supply of fish is key to our natural resources and to the fishing industry and flood protections are needed more than ever,” said Lesniak. “We can and must take legislative action to stop the Christie Administration from compromising the safeguards already in place.”
As the author of most of New Jersey’s groundbreaking environmental legislation and a front running candidate for Governor in 2017, Lesniak is a force that can counter the Republican administration.
Majority votes in both houses of the Legislature could force the DEP to withdraw the proposed rule changes. A similar resolution will be introduced in the Assembly at its next session, Lesniak said.
“The proposed rules appear to reverse the stewardship of former environmental commissioners Brad Campbell and Lisa Jackson, who both worked to preserve New Jersey’s streams and water supply,” said Smith.
The Christie administration rule changes would weaken “stream buffer” requirements which help maintain the natural, vegetative areas protecting waterways from pollutants and people from flooding, Lesniak said.
A state that has seen 22 major floods in recent years, New Jersey cannot allow irresponsible actions that increase the threat of destructive flooding, the senator said.
The Christie administration’s proposed administrative rule changes were issued June 1, 2015.
The resolution, once approved, would give DEP 30 days to withdraw or revise the proposals.
If the Republican administration fails to respond appropriately, the Legislature can pass another concurrent resolution to completely invalidate the regulations, in whole or in part.
“The administration is violating the intent of the Legislature written into existing environmental laws,” said Lesniak. “They are trying to do an end run around the law with unilateral administrative actions. But we have the ability and the determination to stop them.”
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