Industry Moves to Take Over Jersey Eco-Science Board

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Industry Moves to Take Over Jersey Eco-Science Board

DEP Sued to Force Release of Lobbying Messages for Industry-Backed Scientists

TRENTON, NJ - Industry wants to pack a new state environmental Science Advisory
Board with its own scientists, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which today filed a lawsuit to
obtain public records regarding the industry lobbing effort. 
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Mark
Mauriello is reportedly making final picks for the 12-member board this
week after meeting with the Chemistry Industry Council this Thursday.

The
suit challenges the denial by the DEP of an Open Public Records Act
(OPRA) request filed by PEER seeking public records related to industry
nominees and political lobbying for the Science Advisory Board (SAB)
appointments.  The DEP broadly claimed that practically all the
requested documents are exempt from OPRA on the grounds that the
pending appointments will be treated like candidates for employment,
and thus confidential.  Board members, however, are not DEP employees,
nor would they be paid.

"DEP cannot make public records
secret on the basis of an analogy," stated New Jersey PEER Director
Bill Wolfe who filed the document request.  "Industry has a huge stake
in getting friendly scientists on the board that will make the final
recommendation on public health regulation."

In late
2008, former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson abolished the Division of
Science and Research, based in part on a recommendation of her Permit
Efficiency Task Force, chaired by Chris Daggett, now an independent
candidate for Governor.  The Science Advisory Board is supposed to
substitute for the work formerly done by DEP scientists. 

Thus
far, more than 100 nominations have been submitted.  Industry
associations have put forward scientists from major manufacturers such
as DuPont and Merck as well as engineers and technical specialists from
industry-oriented consulting firms.  This Thursday, October 1st,
Commissioner Mauriello, who chooses the board members, will meet behind
closed doors with the Chemistry Industry Council of New Jersey, the
primary lobby group representing state-based manufacturers.  

In
recent months, DEP scientific studies have been the subject of intense
industry lobbying pressure to amend or suppress, on public health
topics ranging from the effects of chemicals, such as PFOAs made by
DuPont, to cement dust blowing through Camden neighborhoods.  The
Administrative Order creating the SAB specifies a conflict of interest
review of board nominees but it is not clear what specific rules will
be applied, except that members are not supposed to act on matters in
which they have a "financial or personal interest" - terms left
undefined.

"It appears that industry will soon be
providing the final edits on all scientific work done at DEP," added
Wolfe.  "Without transparency in the selection process, there will
always be the doubt that this board will more concerned with political
science than environmental science."

The OPRA lawsuit
was filed today on behalf of PEER by Michael Pisauro of the
Princeton-based firm of Frascella & Pisauro, LLC.

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New
Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and
federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental
ethics and government accountability

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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