TRENTON – The controversial issue of the Department of Environmental Protection’s “Waiver Rule” reared its head in an Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee meeting today, where a resolution opposing the rule was advanced from committee by a 5-2 vote along party lines.
ACR37, sponsored by Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D-18), Edison, states that 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,” in essence, calling into question the credibility of the waiver rule.
The waiver rule would extend permits for certain stalled projects in the state, but would allow construction applications to bypass updated environmental regulations.
The waiver rule is vehemently opposed by environmental groups and is generally supported by business interests.
Sara Bluhm of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association opposed the resolution, saying, “it’s very hard to comment on what’s going to happen when [the rule] hasn’t gone into effect.”
Bluhm said the rule would bring “common sense to the DEP regulations.”
Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, supported the anti-waiver resolution, calling the waiver rule the “largest assault on environmental protection in 40 years.”
Tittel said the rule gives the DEP commissioner too much power.
The New Jersey Industrial Council, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Audubon Society, Food and Water Watch, and New Jersey Environmental Protection were among the groups in favor of the resolution.
The New Jersey Petroleum Council, New Jersey Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, League of Municipalities, and the New Jersey Apartment Association were among the groups against the resolution.
Assembly members Scott Rudder (R-8), Medford, and Holly Schepisi (R-39), Westwood, opposed the resolution.
Assembly members Ruben Ramos Jr. (D-33), Hoboken, Matthew Milam (D-1), Vineland, L. Grace Spencer (D-29), Newark, Connie Wagner (D-38), Paramus, and Barnes voted to support the resolution.
Other legislation advanced unanimously
– A2876, sponsored by Spencer, appropriates $534 million in the State Fiscal Year 2013 budget for the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program. The program is expected to finance $534 million in environmental infrastructure projects for FY 2013.
– A2877, sponsored by Assemblyman Gilbert Wilson (D-5), Camden, authorizes the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to expend up to $534 million to provide loans with a low interest rate to project sponsors for 117 eligible environmental infrastructure projects.
– ACR141, sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31), Jersey City, would approve the FY 2013 financial plan of the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust. The passage of a concurrent resolution by each house is the means for approving the trust.