Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) today introduced a resolution that seeks to hold the proposed Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) “Waiver of Department Rules” as inconsistent with legislative intent. The waiver rule, proposed in March, would allow the Commissioner of the DEP to exempt companies from longstanding environmental regulations. Senator Buono’s resolution rejects this attempt to negate environmental law and demonstrates that if the Legislature meant for there to be a waiver to a regulation it would have been included in the initial statute.
“The waiver rule goes above and beyond the DEP’s core mission and runs counter to the intent of the Legislature,” said Senator Buono. “Furthermore it is ripe with the potential for abuse and takes unnecessary risks when it comes to protecting the environment and the citizens of New Jersey.”
Buono’s concerns stem from the vague language in the rule which fails to clearly define the circumstances the DEP would make use of the rule or steps which would be taken to ensure that it is being applied correctly and fairly.
“Environmental regulations are the tools with which both the DEP and the Legislature protect the environment and public health, especially workers employed in hazardous industries who depend on safe working conditions,” added Senator Buono. “To put in place a rule that grants an unelected bureaucrat the ability to arbitrarily tear down these safety mechanisms is disturbing. It is important that we not lose sight of why these regulations are there in the first place.”
The resolution is the first step in exercising legislative veto power granted to the Legislature by voters in 1992. Upon passage of the resolution, the administration would have 30 days to amend or withdraw the rule. Failure to make changes would allow the Legislature to move forward with the process of invalidating it legislatively.