TRENTON – Sen. Linda Greenstein used the appearance of Gov. Christie’s chief environmental official before the Budget Committee this afternoon to take aim at several of the administration’s actions.
Greenstein, (D-14), Plainsboro, challenged DEP Commissioner Bob Martin on the proposed waiver rule, on the state’s departure from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and on the loss of Brownfields funds, among other things.
She questioned DEP’s authority to “waive strict compliance with its own rules,’’ and said the practice of DEP deciding whether a rule is “burdensome’’ for a developer is too subjective.
“I know you intend to be very open,’’ she said to Martin, “but I still picture some developer can come in and claim ‘I wasn’t treated fairly.’”
In response, Martin said there has been misinformation about the waiver process. He said the waiver does not give DEP permission to ignore state or federal law, and that the waiver involves “common sense decisions” about sometimes inflexible and contradictory regulations.
The waiver came out of the administration’s red-tape review process designed to reduce expensive and time-consuming bureaucracy.
Yet Greenstein criticized that approach: “This bypasses the Legislature,’’ she said.
Joseph Pennacchio, (R-26), Montville, however, defended the administration’s goal of whittling down thousands of pages of regulations.
A developer whose original permit expired because of the recession should not have to go through the same permitting process yet again, Pennacchio said.
Greenstein also took the administration to task for its decision last year to pull New Jersey out of the Northeast compact known as RGGI, saying it has lost the state $113 million because of non-participation in the auctions.
Martin said the state already had achieved its 2020 targets for carbon emissions under the Global Warming Response Act, and that the marketplace – and companies shifting to natural gas – will do more to advance the cause of cleaner energy than a government-subsidized program.
The administration had said the RGGI-related tax was counterproductive, but Greenstein said today she considered RGGI important and not just another tax.
In addition, she cited the loss of $30 million over two years with the Brownfields program, as well as a loss of $394 million in the Worker and Community Right to Know Act funding, and $590 million from Pollution Prevention funding from the fiscal year 2013 budget as severe cuts.
However, DEP drew praise as well.
Sen. Steve Oroho, (R-24), Franklin, applauded legal efforts by the administration to combat the coal plant in Portland, Pa., operated by GenOn, which has to decrease emissions by 60 percent by year’s end, and has announced it will close by 2015.
“This is a huge win for New Jersey’s air quality,’’ Martin said.