Hackensack Riverkeeper
231 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
201-968-0808
201-968-0336 (FAX)
Info@HackensackRiverkeeper.org
www.HackensackRiverkeeper.org

Thursday, March 22, 2012

FOR  IMMEDIATE  RELEASE

Contact: Capt. Bill Sheehan
Chris Len

STATEMENT OF HACKENSACK RIVERKEEPER REGARDING LAWSUIT AGAINST DEP WAIVER RULE

Calls coalition of labor and environmental groups an “historic undertaking”

Hackensack, NJ – Joining with twenty-six environmental and labor organizations, Hackensack Riverkeeper is preparing to battle the Christie administration and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) over the agency’s new “Waiver Rule”. Filed today in state superior court in Trenton, the suit names DEP Commissioner Bob Martin as the defendant in seeking to overturn the newly-signed rule, touted by the Christie administration as a “common sense” approach to balancing environmental protection and economic growth.

“Make no mistake, if this rule is allowed to stand, it will destroy environmental protection and severely compromise public health,” said Captain Bill Sheehan, Riverkeeper and Executive Director. “That is why our organizations – representing a widest spectrum of New Jersey citizens – has stepped up to fight it. Without question, our effort is truly an historic undertaking.”

The waiver rule, if allowed to stand, will enable the DEP to sidestep the authority of the New Jersey Legislature and unilaterally waive any state environmental, public health or safety regulations currently in effect. The rule would also allow the state to jettison strict regulations in favor of much more lax federal guidelines, which often set only a bare minimum standard for environmental, health and safety protections.

“Despite clear statutory requirements to the contrary, DEP believes it has the power to waive any rule protecting public safety or the environment. The agency appears to believe that its judgment is superior to the Legislature – the only governmental body with the authority to issue waivers; and then only for specific reasons,” said Hackensack Riverkeeper staff attorney Christopher Len. “This vast overreach is bad policy, exposes all of us to danger, and is ultimately bad for the economy. The only interests it benefits are those the governor's big-business allies. It is illegal, unconstitutional and it will not stand.”

Commissioner Martin – a political appointee without a shred of expertise in the fields of environmental law, regulation or protection – contends in a recent DEP press release that “there is no automatic right to a waiver…” Those appealing the ruling are unwilling to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, and unwilling to see the state empower sprawl developers, land speculators or any corporate entities looking to fast-track ill-conceived plans through an overburdened, demoralized and gutted DEP staff. Recently, even former Governors Brendan Byrne and Thomas Kean spoke out publicly in print – something rarely done against a sitting governor and a current administration – against the waiver rule.

“The hard-fought and hard-won protections affected by the Waiver Rule reflect the highest intentions of the state legislature over more than three bipartisan decades,” said Sheehan. “The fact that virtually all of them have withstood withering assaults in the form of legal challenges seeking to overturn or weaken them should be proof enough for the current administration that they are right and just. Unfortunately, the governor and his appointees are choosing to ignore that reality and are trying to make ‘DEP’ stand for ‘Department of Environmental Permitting’.”

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Attachments:
• Full text of the twenty-seven appellants’ 3/22 press release.
• Scanned PDF copy of the Notice of Appeal filed on behalf of the appellants by the Environmental Law Clinic of the Columbia University School of Law


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