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Enviros Speak Out Against Flood Hazard Rule Rollback

For Immediate Release

Trenton - Today, the environmental community is joining together to speak out against the DEP’s Administrative Order for their dangerous Flood Hazard Rules. Six months ago, the Legislature was poised to block the Flood Hazard Rules. The resolution went through both Houses once and the Assembly passed it a second time. Now the Senate, rather than passing it again, has caved to the Christie Administration and sold out clean water by accepting their Administrative Order to implement the rules. By supporting this dirty deal for dirty water, the Senate has sold out our clean water to the Christie Administration. The AO does nothing to fix the many problems with the Flood Hazard Rules and will still allow a significant rollback of water protections and increase flooding and pollution across the state. The Legislature fell for this cynical move by Christie to stop them from blocking these damaging Rules with the Legislative Veto. This means that these rules are still in place and the permits will start flowing.

“Once again the Democrats caved to Governor Christie instead of standing up to him. This time it means more pollution and more flooding. By accepting this dirty water deal, the Legislature is now going lock-step with the Governor in rolling back critical protections for clean water. We believe that this AO is illegal because it doesn’t follow state or federal procedures. We want the EPA to step in to protect the Clean Water Act. We will keep fighting to get the SCR66 up for a vote. It’s already passed the Assembly and now we need to get the Senate to do their job and stand up to the Christie Administration’s rollbacks and stand up for clean water,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

With these rules stream buffers are going to be severely weakened and we will see a lot more development and pollution.  When the Governor was in Iowa he boasted about overturning Lisa Jackson’s ‘overreach’ water protections. Now he’s been able to continue that assault on our water protections and even worse, he’s got the Legislature going along with his rollbacks.

"In the past week, New Jersey residents have experienced several severe flash floods. Our water woes are getting more extreme with both flooding and drought. Governor Christie should be strengthening rules to protect residents, businesses, and environment from increasing floods. Instead, even with the administrative order, the Governor and DEP have weakened the Flood Hazard Protection Rules and placed public health and safety in greater harm’s way," said Jennifer M. Coffey, ANJEC Executive Director.

They traded our clean water for an AO that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The changes are minor, they may not even be enforced, and the whole thing was only done for public relations sake. The court says you cannot do an AO in place of rulemaking. The Rule that was adopted is what is in place, not this order which can be thrown out by court. The AO is not only insufficient at solving the numerous problems with these dangerous rules, but it is not even enforceable under the law.

“The Administrative Order is locking in regulatory rollbacks for years that will slice and dice our buffers of drinking water sources,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “The best deal to protect our drinking water streams is to have the Legislature stand up for legislative intent by posting SCR66 for a final vote in the State Senate. The Christie Administration NJDEP has worked to undercut the integrity of the buffers surrounding our drinking water sources, blatantly ignoring the anti-degradation standards of the Clean Water Act. The Administrative Order is ultimately not enforceable and it will mean more development in flood plains and buffers, and more pollution and flooding in our neighborhoods. These are not esoteric issues, and we will engage with the public, legislators, the EPA and the courts if need be to ensure that these Christie Administration rollbacks for our waterways don’t stand.”

There has been a lot of opposition against these rules, including from FEMA, the EPA, and former Governor Tom Kean. The Legislative Veto SCR66 has broad bipartisan support and by not posting it for a vote in the Senate, they’ve let the polluters win.

"The Senate is standing in the way of protecting New Jersey’s drinking water by failing to act yet on the Assembly passed-SCR66 which blocks the Christie Administration’s weakening of New Jersey’s flood hazard rules. The SCR is the surest, fastest way to do undo the damage wrought by Christie’s dirty water rule which went into effect June 20th and will cause more flooding. The AO is weak and unenforceable, codifies many weakenings, relies on the good faith of this untrustworthy Administration, and consulted building interests at the table while the public was kept in the dark. Fortunately, it is still not too late to fix this but every day matters because every day this deal is in effect means greater risk of contaminated drinking water and flooding than would otherwise occur," said David Pringle, Campaign Director, NJ Clean Water Action.

The environmental community will continue to push the Legislature to post and pass SCR66. We will go to the EPA to have them once again stand against these rollbacks, as well as the ineffective and unenforceable Administrative Order. We will continue working to block these hazardous Rules.

“We have shown, by standing together, there is strength in unity. We have sent the DEP a very clear message. You cannot split the environmental community when it comes to protecting critical resources like drinking water and protecting people from flooding,” said Maya K van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.