TRENTON – Senator Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, and Vice Chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the Committee’s hearing on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Budget for FY 2010:
“In the past few years, the DEP has established a number of programs – including permit extension and the licensed site remediation professional program – to make the State’s business climate friendlier without jeopardizing environmental quality. Particularly in this current economy, such actions to encourage business investment and speed up environmental clean-up of contaminated sites represent a welcome and needed culture change at the Department.
“However, many people are worried, and rightly so, about the impact of the DEP’s water quality and wastewater management rules. Under the rules, any county which has not completed a wastewater management plan by the deadline of April 7 could face elimination of their wastewater service area designation – a move which would effectively halt all new development which relies on a sewer hook-up in the county. Such a maneuver could damage efforts to lure needed development to the State and the jobs and economic activity that such development would bring.
“So far, the Department has expressed willingness to grant counties which have passed the April 7 deadline an extension to file their plans. But as New Jersey’s counties struggle with the effects of the national recession, many simply do not have the resources or technical expertise to put together a plan in the designated timeframe.
“There’s no question that New Jersey needs to protect our environment and ensure clean drinking water for State residents. But we also need a streamlined, fair and timely permit application and approval process for developers who in good faith work to meet the State’s environmental protection goals. And we need to work with counties to make sure they have the support they need to draft and enforce water management plans which encourage smart-growth and do not hold all development hostage.
“The days of New Jersey’s environmental regulators seeing the business community as the enemy are coming to an end. We cannot afford one-size-fits-all regulation which essentially kills all development in the Garden State, including projects that fit into the smart-growth model of development. At a time when our State is struggling with reduced revenues, heightened unemployment and economic uncertainty about our future, we need to do a better job to realize our shared goals of job creation, smart development and environmental preservation.
“I am encouraged that the current leadership at DEP understands the stakes, and is committed to working with counties who are acting in good faith to meet the Department’s water management rules. I look forward to working with (DEP Commissioner Mark) Mauriello and his staff to provide any legislative support they need for their efforts to cut red-tape and development-killing bureaucracy at the Department.”