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Assembly and Senate Preview: Enviro Bills Up on Monday

source New Jersey Sierra Club 

The following bills are up in the Assembly on Monday, December 17th

A1241 (McKeon/Benson)/ S630 (Gordon)  Provides governance, oversight, and accountability reforms at NJT. The bill establishes four new positions on the board and restructures the existing board so that all public members are required to either have experience as regular public transportation riders or have expertise in human resources or certain transportation topics. The bill also includes statutory duties such as direct oversight of NJT’s management team and monitoring financial implementation.

 “Of all the government agencies, New Jersey Transit needs credibility and oversight. This bill is a step in the right direction that will allow for more open process in an agency that affect most of NJ citizens. New Jersey is the second biggest commuter railroad in the nation and was once a national model until Governor Christie cut its budget eight years in a row.  It has been reported that NJ Transit has 12 times more equipment failures than any other commuter train in the nation. This is the direct result of funding being slashed by 90 percent in the past 11 years. Slashing funding has led to an increase in accidents and federal safety fines, plummeting its national model title,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.  “NJ Transit is making progress on installing positive train control for their trains however they need to do more like and they need to be held accountable.”

A2558 Aca (1R) (DeAngelo/Wirths) "Vegetation Management Response Act"; concerns vegetation management related to electric public utility infrastructure.

“This bill gives utilities too much power without proper oversight. The legislation allows for open season on important vegetation that could harm environmentally sensitive areas. We need to protect power lines from trees but not allow for power companies to just clear-cut whatever they want. This bill also exempts utilities from local tree ordinances and shade tree commissions. This gives them a blanket to clear-cut anything they want. We need protective and selective cutting, not just open discretion,” said Jeff Tittel. “Vegetation removal can result in increased erosion and sedimentation, increased flooding and pollution in our waterways, and destruction of wildlife habitat.

A4579 (Lopez/ Pinkin) Appropriates $28,883,557 in 2003 and 1992 bond act monies for loans for dam restoration and repair projects and inland waters projects.

“Many of New Jersey’s dams are in need of costly repair. It is critical that the DEP use these funds to make sure that dams in need of repair get it. Camden County and Sussex County each have a dam considered in most serious level of need while other dams in Bergen and Passaic County are in poor condition. With climate change, we are seeing stronger and more frequent storms. If we leave these dams untended for much longer, it could mean much bigger problems,” said Tittel.  

A4748 (Pinto Marin) Authorizes NJ Infrastructure Bank to expend additional sums to make loans for environmental infrastructure projects for FY2019.

“It’s important that we make sure we’re incorporate climate change into our infrastructure planning. Otherwise, we’ll be building to standards and levels that won’t stay the same. This could result in our money being washed away with sea level rise or the next storm surge. We also have major problems with lead including $8 billion worth of pipes that need to be fixed and reservoirs that need to be capped. We also need to tie fixing our infrastructure to energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as green building including blue and green roofs to reduce flooding. If we don’t consider climate change, we could end up wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money,” said Jeff Tittel. “They changed the name but it’s still the same old system that doesn’t adequately deal with climate change or resiliency.”

Preservation/Conservation Legislation:

A4733 (Taliaferro) /S3180 (Gopal) Appropriates $15,000,000 from constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues to State Agriculture Development Committee for municipal planning incentive grants for farmland preservation purposes.

A4751 (Roy)/ S3208 (Codey) Appropriates $15.696 million from constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues to DEP for State acquisition of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, including Blue Acres projects.

A4735 (Houghtaling)/ S3181 (Cruz-Perez, Nilsa) Appropriates $1,591,000 from constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues to State Agriculture Development Committee for grants to certain nonprofit organizations for farmland preservation purposes.

A4736 (Armato)/ S3179 (Oroho): Appropriates $8,896,229 to State Agriculture Development Committee for farmland preservation purposes.

A4750 (Pinkin) / S3209 (Greenstein) Appropriates $2.94 million from constitutionally dedicated CBT revenues for recreation and conservation purposes to DEP for State capital and park development projects.

“Funding for conservation and preservation projects for farmland, recreation and Blue Acres is important, and we need to catch up. Blue Acres especially is the most effective way to protect people and property from flooding. It saves us money and protects surrounding properties as well. Buying out a home in a flood prone area is important because it allows the restoration of flood plains and protects other properties from damage. We need to expand this program because we need to relocate people out of areas where there will be future storms,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

 

The following bills are up in the Senate on Monday, December 17th:

S3049 (Sweeney) Appropriates $28,883,557 in 2003 and 1992 bond act monies for loans for dam restoration and repair projects and inland waters projects.

“Many of New Jersey’s dams are in need of costly repair. It is critical that the DEP use these funds to make sure that dams in need of repair get it. Camden County and Sussex County each have a dam considered in most serious level of need while other dams in Bergen and Passaic County are in poor condition. With climate change, we are seeing stronger and more frequent storms. If we leave these dams untended for much longer, it could mean much bigger problems,” said Tittel.

Plastic Pollution Clean-Up SCR135 (Greenstein) urges cooperative approach among all levels of government to provide funding and other resources to clean up plastic pollution. The resolution cites the United Nations Environment Program’s estimate that more than eight million tons of plastic end up in lakes and oceans each year.

“Plastic is a serious public health and environmental risk and we need to work together to clean it up. We must work together to remove plastic from the ecosystems, waterways and environment that have already been contaminated. By working together, we can create new technologies to remove plastics from our environment, such as the skimmers used in Baltimore. Microplastic has been found near our water supply intakes by the Passaic and Raritan River. This is a huge human health risk because we can be literally drinking plastic that have toxins in them. Animals like fish and birds can ingest plastic and can enter our food chain that way too. Animals, especially birds, get strangled and suffocated by plastic bags. Toxic plastics like Polystyrene have also been found in breast milk,” said Tittel. “Since we have become a use once and throwaway society New Jersey needs to start looking into ways to combat this plastic pollution and a state-wide ban on these products is the best way to start.”

SCR119(Cryan/Bateman)Urges President and Congress to require interstate natural gas pipelines constructed in N.J. to conform with N.J. regulations for intrastate natural gas pipelines.  

“It is important for the legislature to ask the federal government to allow for interstate pipelines to conform with New Jersey regulations. Federal rules are much weaker than New Jersey. The federal government allows for thinner steal and even fewer wells that would make these pipelines more vulnerable to corrosion and explosions. Under federal rules, in rural areas the shut off valves are every 5 miles, which means if gas leaks out, there is a change of an explosion,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The bill would allow New Jersey inspectors to monitor these pipelines because there are very few federal inspectors that are 100s of miles away from the site. It is better that interstate pipelines conform with New Jersey regulations to not only improve efficiency but protect the people of New Jersey and the environment.”

SCR-150(Bateman/Greenstein) Urges Governor to block proposed rule permitting storage, treatment, disposal, and discharge of wastewater generated from hydraulic fracturing in Delaware River Basin.

“We need a complete ban of fracking activities by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), including not allowing dumping fracking waste or taking water for fracking activities elsewhere. Having a partial ban that actually allows the dumping of fracking waste still puts the drinking water and environment of the Basin at risk.

 

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