Lawmaker Warns Environmental Waiver Rule Risks Public Safety

August 15, 2012 | Energy & Environment
Sen. Linda Greenstein is leading an effort to block a controversial waiver rule that would allow the state DEP to bypass any regulation on a case-by-case basis.

Back in May, a Senate committee began an effort to block a controversial waiver rule that would allow the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to bypass any regulation on a case-by-case basis. Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14), who led the effort, sat down with Managing Editor Mike Schneider, to discuss her concerns about the waiver rule as well as the state of bipartisanship in New Jersey.

According to Greenstein, the controversial waiver rule isn’t just an environmental issue but a constitutional issue as well. “It’s the larger issue of separation of powers,” said Greenstein. “In our constitution, it says that somebody, an agency can’t just promulgate these kinds of rules and change the rules in mid-stream.”

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What concerns Greenstein about the waiver is that bureaucrats would have the final word on important environmental questions, putting economic priorities above the health and safety of the public.

“It’s focusing primarily on the Department of Environment Protection and it’s saying that that agency will be able to promulgate new rules for very vague reasons if somebody decides that a developer is going to be impeded in some way and other reasons like that that don’t have the interest of the environment at heart, people can be hurt.”

While she supports economic development in the state, Greenstein said it shouldn’t come by bypassing environmental regulations.

“There have often been developers who’ve complained about red tape,” noted Greenstein. “I know that’s been a priority of the governor’s but we don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water and leave our environmental protections at the hands of a bureaucrat.”

Turning to the topic of Chris Christie, Greenstein said she wasn’t surprised by the announcement that the governor will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention later this month.

“It’s been obvious for a long time that he is a player in the Republican party, was obviously considered for vice president. So I really wasn’t surprised by it and I think it does raise his stature nationally.”

Gov. Christie has spoken repeatedly about how New Jersey can serve as a model for Washington when it comes to bipartisanship. He touts the passage of key legislation like the pension and health benefits law and the new teacher tenure rules as examples. But according to Greenstein, the reality in Trenton is not as rosy as the governor portrays.

“I think he has needed bipartisan support to get some of his initiatives through. I think he has done that a little bit better than some Republicans have done, but I don’t think that the bipartisan support has been as widespread as perhaps he might state.”