DEP waiver opposition resolution passed in committee

TRENTON – A resolution, SCR239, in opposition to the controversial “waiver’’ rule the administration gave to the Department of Environmental Protection drew a great deal of support and opposition today and was released by the Senate Energy Committee.

Earlier this year, Gov. Christie’s red tape review commission led to the waiver rule to allow overly burdensome or contradictory regulations to be bypassed in some situations, but environmentalists have been strongly opposed.

They argued that the whole waiver system is vague and far-reaching and in some cases in direct opposition to legislative intent.

Jeff Tittel of the N.J. Sierra Club said that DEP Commissioner Bob Martin is an honorable official but that the waiver rule is so vague it leaves much room for potential abuse.

Committee Chairman Bob Smith said that  one of the reasons this resolution was proposed was precisely because the sponsors want to maintain the credibility of DEP and they fear DEP will be in a compromising position. The resolution is sponsored by Sens. Barbara Buono and Robert Gordon.

However, resolution opponents said that the DEP waiver is necessary for businesses. Supporters of the waiver process, such as the N.J. League of Municipalities and Association of Counties, said there are some applications that were introduced as far back as 2006 that still have not been approved, and in some cases applicants have incurred more than $60,000 in fees.

These bureaucratic problems are precisely what the waiver rule is designed to alleviate, they argued.

Yet, the N.J. Environmental Lobby argued the wavier rule of the administration goes so far as to possibly be unconstitutional. There already are provisions for applicants to argue hardships, environmental groups testified.

The bill cleared 3-2 along party lines, with Republican Sens. Jennifer Beck and Kip Bateman voting no.

Beck said she didn’t believe the waiver grants as much leeway as its opponents fear.

However, Sen. Linda Greenstein argued standards could go out the window and vagueness of the waiver rule is a major concern.