Pay-to-Players Take Over Jersey Environmental Agency

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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

Pay-to-Players Take Over Jersey Environmental Agency

Corporate Political Donors Control DEP Toxic Clean-Up Oversight and Rulemaking

TRENTON, N.J. - Key figures in a corporate pay-for-play scandal also occupy
controlling positions on state "stakeholder" committees setting toxic
clean-up standards which affect their business dealings, potentially
saving them significant sums while effectively shielding them from
enforcement actions from the New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP), according to Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). PEER is calling for removal of participating
corporations from DEP "technical committees" and for an audit of their
cases before DEP.

Corporations with millions in state contracts
have donated large sums to an ironically named "Reform New Jersey" group
that pushed for the privatization agenda of Governor Chris Christie.
Run by key Christie advisors, Reform New Jersey appeared to violate
state pay-to-play prohibitions which bar contributions in connection
with award of public contracts. In late December, the group was
disbanded after its contributors were revealed. Gov. Christie has
denied any knowledge of its activities, despite being the keynote
speaker at Reform New Jersey fundraisers.

Some of those same
corporations and redevelopment consultants also sit on DEP stakeholder
committees charged with re-writing regulations governing toxic site
clean-up. For example, Langan Engineering (which gave $25,000 to Reform
New Jersey) has a dominating delegation of nine representatives. One
of its senior associates, tapped by Gov. Christie, serves on the DEP
Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board, which oversees newly
authorized privatized clean-ups of contaminated sites.

These
slots give these firms inside access and influence that can work to
shield them from oversight or enforcement by DEP. As one DEP employee
recently wrote:

"Langan has been given
unprecedented access to DEP records and computer databases that their
competitors do not have. The big ‘joke' at DEP is that we work for them.
This despite the fact that everyone in the Site Remediation Program
(hundreds of scientists and engineers) can give examples of shoddy,
unprofessional, inaccurate, and even unethical product from Langan over
the years."

"At DEP, the Christie ‘streamlining'
agenda is a façade for hollowing out health safeguards and filling them
in with self-regulation by the polluting corporations and their paid
consultants," stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe. "This is the
foxes running a chicken take-out restaurant from the henhouse."

In
a December 31 letter, PEER asked DEP Commissioner Bob Martin to remove
the Reform New Jersey participants from agency boards and committees and
to audit how the firms' cases were being handled by DEP. Martin has
yet to reply to the letter.

Not coincidentally, New Jersey DEP
is in the process of lowering standards for privatized clean-ups of
toxic sites, including relaxation of vapor intrusion protections and
requirements for complete remediation. At the same time, the state is
reeling from health problems arising at "former" toxic sites, such as
most recently Pompton Lakes, that have been inadequately cleaned up.

"How is New Jersey's economy helped by more toxic clean-ups that leave neighbors and future residents at risk?" asked Wolfe.

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See the corporate who's who on DEP technical committees 

Read the PEER letter calling for removal and audits 

View the agenda for lowered toxic clean-up standards 

Look at Pompton Lakes mess 

Revisit DEP role in 2009 pay-to-play corruption scandals 

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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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