New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin has written to the State Legislature informing them that the DEP will not withdraw the Highlands Septic Density Rules, despite the resolution against them voiding the rules. Martin claims that by passing the resolution, the Legislature “acted outside its constitutional authority to abolish the rules under the New Jersey State Constitution.” The DEP’s Highlands Forest Preservation Area is a major source of drinking water for up to 6 million people that includes pristine trout streams, and reservoirs. These rules will not only threaten our water supply, but are based on arbitrary science that target open space and will increase flooding.
“In an outrageous act of arrogance, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin is refusing to void the Highlands Septic Density Rules. He is arrogantly telling the NJ State Legislature that he will not follow the law. The legislature has determined the Highlands rules Violated legislative intent and voided them by passing the resolution. Bob Martin defies their authority by refusing to pull down the rules and insults the people of New Jersey. The Septic Density Rule would have weakened critical protections in the Highlands and pushed development in the mountains above our reservoirs. This decision not to pull down the rules is dangerous to the Highlands and those who get their drinking water from it, and disrespectful to the people of New Jersey who support the resolution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Martin is basically telling clean water to 'Drop Dead'. We will not let this abuse of power go unchallenged."
Last week, both the Senate and Assembly passed SCR163 (Smith)/ACR255 (McKeon) that determines DEP Highlands Septic Rule is against legislative intent. These rules will weaken the main feature of the Highlands Act that helps protect the Highlands Forest Preservation Area from development. One of the main concerns with this rule is that the exempted lots that were grandfathered under the Highlands Act would be able to connect to new lots and even make it cost effective to build roads and subdivisions up the most environmental sensitive tops of forested mountains.
“This resolution was an important vote since for the first time, the Legislature has voted to overturned one of Christie’s terrible environmental rules. Bob Martin is acting in defiance of the wishes of the Legislature by refusing to pull down these rules. The changes in DEP’s Highlands Septic Density rule will open the entire Forest Preservation Area in the Highlands to development. These standards prevent the degradation of water quality in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the entire state. The Highlands protect 64% of our state’s drinking water. By allowing the extension of sewers, it will impact open space and nearby reservoirs and streams,” said Jeff Tittel. “This rule will not only rob our clean water supply, lowering our aquifers, but will pollute our streams, rivers, and drinking water.”
The Highlands Septic rules were put in place to protect our drinking water and public health, but this proposal is a dirty deal for dirty water. This is part of the Administration’s weakening of the Flood Hazard Rules, Water Quality Management Planning Rules as well as the failure to update the Water Supply Master Plan and preventing the Drinking Water Quality Institute from meeting.
“Bob Martin’s refusal to comply with the Legislature by pulling these rules down is just an attack on clean water and the public. This also part of the Christie Administration’s attack on the Highlands Act. Christie has said he wants to repeal the Highlands Act, but the Legislature would never let him. Instead he’s trying to do it one roll back at a time like DEP’s Water Quality Management Planning rules, failing to update the Water Supply Master Plan, and stacking the Highlands Council. The Highlands Septic Density Rules violate legislative intent and threaten the entire environment and drinking water of the region. That is why the Legislature had to step with this important override resolution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We will make sure, along with the incoming Murphy Administration, these rules will be pulled down and instead we protect our most environmentally sensitive and important resources such as the Highlands.”