Click on a topic for more information:
- Proposed Sale of Preserved Land, Millville
- Trails Grants
- Proposed State Plan
- NJ Legislature Updates
NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) plans to sell an 80-acre tract of environmentally sensitive land, formerly known as the Durand property in Millville, Cumberland County. No State, county or local government has ever proposed a diversion of this magnitude for commercial/industrial development. This transfer would set a regrettable precedent for future diversions and severely undermine over 50 years of public support for Green Acres funding.
The Durand Tract is integral to one of the largest, most pristine and critical tracts of forest in southern New Jersey. NJDEP Green Acres purchased the Durand property just 10 months ago, to add to the 474-acre Menantico Ponds Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The Durand tract’s enormous environmental value led NJDEP to purchase the tract. The NJDEP Endangered and Non-Game Species Program Landscape Project ranks the entire tract as breeding habitat for six state threatened, endangered, or special concern species.
Land transfer is a shell game
NJDEP’s proposed replacement property does not compensate for the environmental loss incurred, because the replacement land at Holly Farm is already preserved through its development permits and wetlands protections.
The deadline for written comments to NJDEP Green Acres on the diversion of the Durand Tract will be June 4, 2014. Written comments should be mailed to Judeth Yeany, NJDEP Green Acres, Mail Code 501-01, PO Box 420, Trenton NJ 08625-0420 or be sent by email.
The Christie Administration has announced its intention to formally repeal the rules implementing New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program that limits dangerous climate-changing pollution from power plants. The Administration’s action is in response to the April NJ Superior Court ruling that the Christie Administration illegally pulled the State out of RGGI.
The repeal of the rules is expected to be published in the New Jersey Register on July 7, followed by a 60-day public comment period.
More than 80 percent of New Jerseyans support limits on global warming pollution from power plants. Here’s what you can do to oppose the repeal of the RGGI rules, and some tools to make it easier:
- Contact the Governor’s office and your state legislators, and ask others to do likewise (Tips on what to say).
- Ask your governing body to pass a resolution (sample resolution).
- Offer testimony either in person or by email during the public hearing process.
- Send press releases or write letters to the editors of local media (sample press release).
The opportunity to act will end by early September, so it’s important to get the ball rolling before everyone leaves for vacation.
An important source of funding for trail-building and maintenance in New Jersey, the Recreational Trails Grants Program (RTP), has been suspended by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which administers the program.
Staff that administered the program have been reassigned to Superstorm Sandy recovery/resilience tasks. The Federal Highway Administration allocates about $1 million annually to New Jersey for this program, and allowed the State to use 10% of that amount for staff to administer the program. With the federal grant covering administration costs, it is difficult to understand why DEP suspended the program.
Thanks in part to the outcry by the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) and its member environmental commissions, the Christie Administration belatedly announced the awarding of $755,000 in grants for the 2013 program but made no mention of the 2014 grant program, which should have been announced in 2013, with applications due in February 2014.
ANJEC urges DEP to move ahead with the 2014 cycle of this program and ensure that the federal allocation of funding New Jersey is entitled to will be used for trail-building and maintenance. When this money sits idle, local trails initiatives and critical seasonal projects such as summer youth employment, conservation leadership programs and repairs from storm damage are stalled.
In November 2011, the State Planning Commission (SPC) approved its Draft Final State Plan, starting the last steps for approval of a new State Plan, the document required by the State Planning Act to guide growth and conservation in New Jersey. The Public Comment Period closed on October 15th, 2012, and a Summary of Public Hearings and Comments was released in November 2012. No action has been taken to adopt or amend the Draft since then.In written comments, ANJEC expressed grave concerns about the Draft State Plan. Rather than presenting a comprehensive document to chart the growth, limited growth and preservation areas of the state, this is an economic growth plan. The Plan offers no strategies for containing growth within centers, to prevent it from overwhelming the rest of the State with further sprawl development. Beyond outright purchase of land, the Plan offers no protection for environmentally sensitive regions. It fails to acknowledge that because sewers enable growth, sewer service areas should be kept out of water resource and habitat areas.
The Draft Final State Plan calls for the State Planning Commission to phase out use of the State Plan Policy Map, which accompanied previous versions of the State Plan. In its place will be the criteria-based system. The SPC has released a draft of these criteria in an “Advance Notice of Rules” prior to formal consideration as a rule proposal and has asked for comment.
Under the criteria, development is preferred in the Priority Growth Investment Areas; Alternate Growth Investment Areas should have planned or existing infrastructure and also may be able to get funding. Priority Preservation Investment Areas are areas where land preservation, agriculture, historic or environmental protection is preferred, and the Plan calls for the State to establish a dedicated, sustainable source of preservation funding. ANJEC has submitted comments on these criteria.
ANJEC has joined other environmental organizations in opposing natural gas development using hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) that threatens the quality of our waterways by extracting millions of gallons of water from the Delaware River and its tributaries. (See letter) The water is then laced with toxic chemicals including volatile organic chemicals and carcinogens like benzene, methyl benzene, and formaldehyde and injected below ground into the well. The process releases these as well as naturally occurring toxic chemicals that are trapped in the shale deposits, and brings them to the surface in the wastewater.
ANJEC supports a ban on hydrofracking and for regulation by the Delaware River Basin Commission to prevent pollution and avoid degradation of the water resources and ecosystems of the Delaware River Watershed.
Two New Jersey municipalities have enacted ordinances banning fracking and doz dozens of NJ communities have passed resolutions opposing the dangerous consequences of hydrofracking.
Click here for a sample resolution for use by municipalities.
As the end of the summer session fast approached, the NJ Legislature was a hotbed of activity.
- Forest Stewardship -This controversial bill to allow commercial harvesting of trees from New Jersey’s state-owned forests overwhelmingly passed both houses of the legislature in June 2013 after a series of changes. The Governon conditionally vetoed the bill on August 19, 2013, citing convern over a newly added provision that would have transferred responsibility for the program from the Department of Environmental Protection to the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council.
- Fracking – Both houses of the New Jersey Legislature have approved (A575/S253) banning the importation of hydrofracking waste water for treatment, storage or disposal in New Jersey. Although there is no fracking activity in the state at this time, at least three New Jersey sites--in Carteret, Elizabeth and South Kearny--have already accepted fracking waste, according to records from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Governor Christie vetoed A575/S253 in September 2012, in spite of vigorous support by dozens of environmental commissions, many other environmental groups and over 22,000 petition signatures by residents to ban the transportation of hydrofracking waste water for treatment, storage or disposal in New Jersey.
- RGGI – Both houses of the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill (S-1322) in May to force New Jersey to stay in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Governor Christie vetoed this bill in July 2012.
In a separate action, two environmental groups—Environment New Jersey and the National Resources Defense Council—filed a lawsuit in June 2012 against Governor Christie and the state Department of Environmental Protection for withdrawing from RGGI. In December 2013, the Senate’s Environment and Solid Waste Committee approved a resolution (SCR146) to let voters decide by ballot referendum in November 2014.
- Solar – In June 2012, the Legislature approved S-1925, a complex, 37-page bill designed to rescue a floundering NJ solar market depressed by an oversupply of SREC’s. The bill aims to stabilize the value of the solar credits by accelerating the timetable of required solar energy purchases by utilities and other energy providers and by requiring utilities to add more solar to their energy portfolios.
The bill discourages large-scale projects on farmland while offering special benefits for solar installations on brownfields and properly closed old landfills and those developed for large manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
- Waiver Rule - The Waiver Rule, which into effect on August 1, 2012, allows the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to waive environmental regulations under certain circumstances. Before DEP implemented the rule, the Assembly passed ACR37 on May 24 to overturn it by declaring it inconsistent with legislative intent. Senator Barbara Buono also sponsored a resolution (SCR59) to overturn the Rule, but Senate President Stephen Sweeney has not yet scheduled a vote in his chamber.
Meanwhile, ANJEC and 27 other organizations jointly filed suit to overturn the Rule on the basis that it undermines 40 years of environmental progress and compromises important New Jersey laws to protect water, air and open spaces. On March 21, 2013, a State appeals court upheld the Waiver Rule and the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge requested by the organizations that filed the original suit.