A coalition of 28 environmental, labor and religious groups today blasted what they see as the Christie administration’s attacks on environmental safeguards.
The organizations were joined at a rally outside the Statehouse by lawmakers including Sen. Bob Smith, and Assembly members John McKeon, Connie Wagner, Linda Stender, and Upendra Chivukula.
“This is a united show of support for the environment from union, faith, and environmental leaders, bolstered by our champs in the Legislature and citizens from across the state,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director for Environment New Jersey, during a press conference at the Statehouse. “We want to send a clear message to Governor Christie and others who would undo more than a decade of protections for our air, land and water that New Jerseyans want to move forward for a cleaner and healthier future, not backward.”
Among other things, the coalition has targeted Christie’s decision to remove the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and its Department of Environmental Protection waiver rule that allows an applicant to proceed with a project that under other circumstances might be delayed or canceled altogether.
“We are not going to let the governor spoil the future for our children,’’ she told a crowd of several hundred supporters while just down the street could be heard thousands of union demonstrators rallying for a second day against pension and benefits rollbacks.
“This is the moment for New Jersey’s legislators to take a stand – above private interests, above cutting corners for a fast buck, above settling for less for short term gains,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “We all have to get back to the basic values of public health and clean water to protect our state.”
“Stronger environmental and worker protections and clean energy will help create the jobs we so desperately need in New Jersey and across our nation,” said Rick Engler, director, NJ Work Environment Council.
He said they are fighting efforts he said are backed by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, (D-3), and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Cape May, that Engler said will block New Jersey from exceeding weak federal standards.
Among the groups in the coalition are the following: American Jewish Committee, American Littoral Society, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, Blue Wave NJ, Clean Ocean Action, CWA Local 1036, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Edison Wetlands Association, Environment New Jersey, Food & Water Watch, GreenFaith, Monmouth Presbytery, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Audubon Society, New Jersey Friends of Clearwater , New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Environmental Federation, New Jersey Environmental Lobby, NJ Highlands Coalition, NJ Sierra Club, NY / NJ Baykeeper, North Jersey Public Policy Network, Pascack Sustainability Group, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Teamsters Local 877, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Work Environment Council
Representatives of some of the groups planned to lobby legislators for their cause. Earlier in the day, a Senate committee released three pieces of legislation designed to prevent the governor from removing the state from RGGI. The bills cleared an Assembly committee last week and now head to the full chambers for votes.
Other issues the coalition is concerned with are the state’s attempt to introduce the fracturing process as a means to find new gas deposits; restrictive beach access regulations; and nominees to the Highlands Council who they say will undo years of environmental protections.
McKeon said that New Jersey once was an environmental leader that its Department of Environemntal Protection commissioner went to Washington, D.C., to join the Obama administration in environmental causes, but now, with the Christie administration’s agenda, the state is in the process of rolling back decades of progress.
And Jeff Tittel of the N.J. Sierra Club said the waiver rule will give the DEP permission to fill in wetlands or essentially undo any rule it decides to. “The only green in this Statehouse is from the special interests and developers,” he said.