TRENTON – Senator Bob Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset, the Chair of the Senate Environment Committee, issued the following statement regarding today’s Committee hearing regarding ongoing State environmental projects and the direction that New Jersey’s environmental policies should take this year:
“I think we had a very productive dialogue today regarding where we are with the implementation of the State’s environmental priorities, and where we should be going in the coming year.
“In the past few years, New Jersey has begun some very important and far-reaching environmental programs. We’ve adopted laws which cut down on harmful diesel emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve approved measures which enhance our State’s recycling programs, and ensure water quality, by preserving vital watershed land in the Highlands region.
“However, all the laws in the world won’t have any positive impact on the State’s ecosystem unless these programs are being implemented properly and monitored constantly.
“We must ensure that as we develop new environmental initiatives, the programs that have already been put in place are given the resources and oversight to thrive. I credit DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) Commissioner Lisa Jackson for offering strong leadership to make sure that our laws are implemented following the intent of the Legislature, and that new environmental regulations have a real, positive effect on the quality of our State’s environment.
“Moving forward, we need to be open to working with all parties in gaining consensus and putting the best bills forward, which have been appropriately vetted by all stakeholders. Our environment is too important to let narrow parochial or special interests dictate the direction of policies which will be felt by generations of New Jerseyans yet to come.
“Today’s committee hearing was a great example of public involvement in the environmental protection process. We had members from various advocacy groups and all walks of life testify today about their individual goals for the Senate Environment Committee this year. While some of the people who testified had competing interests, they came together to honestly tell us as a Committee what they thought we need to do to improve the state of our environment and the regulatory structure.
“Ultimately, whatever we seek to do in the Committee, we need to always keep the channels of public scrutiny and involvement open, and work to include greater public involvement in our environmental deliberations.
“Additionally, I expect that the Senate Environment Committee will take a good look at land use laws and open space preservation. Last year, we approved stop-gap funding to allow the State’s Green Acres program to limp forward. We need to establish a dedicate revenue stream which is both sustainable and meaningful over the next decade or so.
“We need to also look at shore preservation and ocean water quality measures, to make sure that the progress we’ve achieved in cleaning up our beaches and inlets isn’t undone by lax regulation and focus on other projects. We’ve come a long way from the toxic beach days of the 1980’s, and we need to be vigilant against the potential for backsliding.
“All in all, I look forward to working with regulators, advocates and lawmakers in accomplishing great things for New Jersey’s environment in 2008. We’ve made massive strides in recent years in establishing an environmental legacy to hand down to future residents of the State. We must continue on the progress made in the past few years, and move towards a greener tomorrow for the Garden State.”