(TRENTON) – A measure sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon to ask voters in New Jersey to amend the state constitution so that monies the state collects from environmental contamination lawsuits are used for restoration efforts and other environmental protection measures was released Monday by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.
“Right now, the state is able to use this money for any purpose, and the Christie administration has taken full advantage of this,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris), who is vice chair of the committee. “Since he took office, the governor has taken more than $1 billion from the state’s clean energy program for the general fund. These monies were not meant to plug holes in the budget. These monies were the result of environmental contamination settlements and should only be used to repair the damage caused by the contamination and for measures that can help protect our environment.”
The resolution (ACR-127) would prioritize, in the following order, the use of the dedicated moneys used by the state to repair, restore, or replace damaged or lost natural resources of the state, or to permanently protect the natural resources of the state, in connection with the claim for which the money was recovered:
(1) in the immediate area in which the damage to the natural resources occurred; or
(2) in the same water region in which the damage to the natural resources occurred.
“Spending this money on anything other than environmental protection efforts sends the wrong message to residents and the companies who already think so little of protecting our natural resources. If the state doesn’t care about repairing the damage or investing in measures to protect our environment, why should they?” asked McKeon. “Diverting these funds lessens our ability to counter the harm done by these companies. Ensuring that these monies are used for protective measures helps protect the environment and the public health.”
If no reasonable project is available to satisfy the first or second priority for the use of the moneys, or if there are moneys available after satisfying the first or second priority, moneys may be used by the state to repair, restore, or replace damaged or lost natural resources of the State, or permanently protect the natural resources of the State without geographic constraints.
In addition, no more than 10 percent of the moneys dedicated and appropriated annually pursuant to this constitutional amendment may be expended for administrative costs of the State, or its departments, agencies, or authorities for the authorized purposes.
The measure will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further review.