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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.
DEP did not distribute New Jersey’s federal allocation of grant funds in 2013, and does not plan to offer the program in 2014. 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 has 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 has suspended the program.
We recommend that environmental commissions prepare this sample letter, adding local information on the importance of the RTP program (how the towns have used RTP funding, or planned to), and ask their Mayor to sign and send it to Commissioner Martin and the town’s state and federal representatives.
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.