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The proposed Economic Opportunity Act (A3680/S2583) will undo years of NJ planning to stop sprawl and protect water. ANJEC and other environmental and smart growth organizations are objecting to elements of an economic growth bill that would encourage development in environmentally-sensitive and agricultural areas not served by infrastructure, and ignore land use protection concepts in the Highlands and Pinelands plans. The bill gives financial incentives for building in areas designated in the State Plan as Fringe (PA3), Agricultural (PA4) and Environmentally Sensitive (PA5). Instead, incentives would be limited to areas that are already developed, designated centers or transit hubs, or otherwise already designated for growth in Pinelands or Highlands comprehensive plans.
In November, 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.
ANJEC has grave concerns about this version of the 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. ANJEC submitted comments on the State Plan.
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.
Some New Jersey municipalities 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.
- Permit Extension -
Governor Christie signed the permit extension bill (S-3165) on September 21, extending development permits to 2014. By renewing a previous bill passed in 2008, the legislation, in effect, brings back to life permits issued up to 10 years ago without requiring developers to reapply for approval. The bill expands the extension of permits into the Highlands “Planning Area” and into Pinelands rural “Villages,” which the 2008 Act had excluded.
- 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, such as requiring that the program meet standards set by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
- 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 has vetoed A575/S253, 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. 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.
Environmentalists are now urging legislators to override the Governor’s veto. Call your state representatives and ask them to support this effort. More information.
- 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 has stated that he will veto this bill.
In a separate action, two environmental groups—Environment New Jersey and the National Resources Defense Council—filed a lawsuit on June 6 against Governor Christie and the state Department of Environmental Protection for withdrawing from RGGI, just as New Jersey missed the second quarterly auction of carbon dioxide allowances since its official withdrawal from the cap-and-trade program.
- Solar – On June 25 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. The organizations that filed the original suit now plan to take it to the Supreme Court.