(TRENTON) — Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex), Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Chair L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), committee vice-chair Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) and Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-Essex) issued a multimedia package Thursday on their legislation designed to halt the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from circumventing existing environmental regulations through a waiver rule allowed by the governor’s Executive Order No. 2.
The resolution (ACR-37) notes that the rules and regulations DEP adopted to establish a procedure to waive existing rules are not consistent with the original intent of the Legislature.
The waiver, adopted by the DEP last Spring, would allow the DEP Commissioner to exempt companies from longstanding environmental regulations, potentially harming the environment as well as workers employed in hazardous industries who depend on safe working conditions.
The measure, approved in May by a 47-31 vote, would give the DEP Commissioner 30 days from the date of transmittal of the resolution to amend or withdraw the proposed rules and regulations, or the Legislature may, by passage of another concurrent resolution, exercise its authority under the Constitution to invalidate the rules and regulations in whole or in part.
The measure now awaits final legislative approval by the full Senate. Once approved, the resolution will then be sent to Governor Christie and the Commissioner of the DEP, who will then have 30 days to amend or withdraw the department’s proposed rule.
The multimedia package consists of a video of the Assembly Democratic legislators explaining why their resolution is necessary both to protect the environment and preserve the separation of powers that exist between our governments’ three branches.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from Assembly Democrats is appended below:
Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex), Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair:
“When Gov. Christie came in, one of the first things he did, the first or second day in office, is issue an order called Executive Order No. 2 that granted a lot of the agencies power to waive certain rules.”
Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex) Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Chair:
“The waiver rule allows developers to get around certain DEP regulations and rules.
“This is something that is contravening to the legislative intent. The legislature passed certain environmental restrictions and the reasons why they were passed was to protect our environment.
“By allowing, or by DEP now formulating this waiver rule, they are attempting to circumvent legislatively created rules and they cannot do that.”
Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-Essex):
“The Christie administration has an abysmal environmental record and they’re looking to have just the independent authority basically to circumvent 40 years of lawmaking by this esteemed body.”
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Vice-Chair:
“What we’re making the statement today is that it exceeded the boundary of executive authority and we’re trying to restore the balance of power between the branches.”
“It essentially says that the commissioner and his agents do not have the authority to waive any regulations that deal with clean air, clean water, open space and those kinds of things, and it brings the power back to the Legislature – the body that’s been working on these types of bills and regulations for the last 30 years.”