Four Former NJ Governors Join Together to Battle Dismantling of EPA

Accord is first time in memory that a group like this came together to oppose the policies of a sitting president

Four New Jersey governors, a pair of Republicans, and a couple of Democrats don’t like President Donald Trump’s plans to slash spending on environmental programs.

They are so opposed, in fact, that they are banding together to rally the state’s congressional delegation to oppose the 31 percent cut proposed for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a move Gov. Jim Florio argued would “effectively repeal’’ the nation’s environmental laws.

In a rare joint appearance, Florio united with former Govs. Brendan Byrne and Christie Whitman, a former EPA administrator, in denouncing the emerging environmental agenda of the new administration in Washington, DC. Former Gov. Tom Kean missed the teleconference call but signed the letter, which also was endorsed by former Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden, a Republican who shepherded a landmark bill protecting the state’s wetlands into law, and former Congressman Rush Holt, a Democrat.

In the past, the four governors have led bipartisan efforts to promote state initiatives to protect open space, the Pinelands, and other environmental initiatives, but this is the first time in memory that they came together to oppose the policies of a sitting president.

“What’s striking about this is having a former EPA administrator in the last Republican administration joining in on this,’’ said John Weingart, associate director at the Eagleton Institute.

Whitman agreed with Florio about the profound impact of the spending cuts at the EPA, coupled with a 20 percent projected reduction in staff.

“You are doing away with enforcement, with scientific research, which tells you what is important for human health,’’ the former Republican governor said.

The criticism follows similar objections raised by Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone on Monday, who vowed to fight the environmental rollbacks being pushed by Trump, which include dismantling much of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat climate change.

New Jersey has a long history of leadership in the environment — from enacting the country’s first auto-emission testing program to reduce pollution from cars to preserving open space and farmland in the nation’s most densely populated state.

The governors cited that proud record in pledging to work against easing protections to safeguard gains in protecting the state’s air, lands, and water. Florio noted the federal Superfund program to clean up hazardous waste sites could come to a standstill because of the proposed budget cuts. In Congress, Florio wrote the bill that became the Superfund law.

“For nearly six decades, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has worked with every administration to ensure that New Jersey’s land and water are preserved for future generations,’’ said Michele Byers, executive director of the organization. “Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington and many in Congress are takings steps to dismantle the bipartisan legacy of environmental protections that we depend on.’’

Ogden said it is time for the state’s representatives in Congress to be strong in supporting the gains that have been made. A new Quinnipiac poll yesterday showed the public opposes those rollbacks, with 61 percent of Americans disapproving of how Trump is handling the environment.

To succeed in the upcoming fight, Florio said it is time to get average people engaged and involved in the battle. “That means leaders have to reach out and bring people in,’’ he said.

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