The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

New Jersey Environmental Leaders Launch Ethics Reforms

Latest Corruption Scandals Spark Calls for Transparency &Whistleblower Measures


Responding to the latest "bid rig" corruption indictments, New
Jersey environmental leaders today proposed a comprehensive platform of
ethics reforms to prevent future abuses and called on Governor Corzine
and the state legislature to take aggressive and immediate action to
enact it.

"New Jersey's air, land and water are major victims of
political corruption in this state. If we want our state to be green,
we need to make politics clean," stated Dena Mottola Jaborska, the
Executive Director of Environment New Jersey. "These reforms will help
to ensure that government leaders make environmental policy decisions
based on science and the law, not money and influence."

The reform agenda was developed by "CleanGreenNJ," a new consortium
of environmental and public interest organizations which includes
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Environment
NJ, NJ Environmental Federation, NJ Environmental Lobby, NJ Sierra
Club, Surfrider Foundation and others.

"We can never have clean air or clean water without clean
government," said Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director. "Just like we
have to clean up toxic waste sites, we have to clean up government and
that is why we are forming this coalition. In New Jersey, development
has become part of enterprise corruption: you take a worthless piece of
property, use pay to play to change the zoning and get permits and then
make millions. We have to stop this cycle of corruption that leads to
sprawl and overdevelopment"

In order to restore the public trust and confidence in the agency,
CleanGreenNJ is calling for an independent investigation of the DEP, to
determine what happened and how pervasive the problems are. The group
is also calling for whistleblower protections for DEP employees, and
new government transparency to empower citizen watchdogs.

CleanGreenNJ's platform calls on Governor Corzine and the NJ State legislature to:

  • Investigate DEP operations and enforce ethics rules
  • Empower DEP whistleblowers
  • Bring transparency for citizen watchdogs
  • Fix the campaign finance system and prohibit legislators from receiving outside sources of income
  • Rein in recent developer initiatives

"DEP conducts public business behind closed doors, and provides
routine daily access to political players and corporate lobbyists,"
said Bill Wolfe, Director of New Jersey PEER. "This access is used to
influence science and regulatory decisions and weaken protections. DEP
then conceals these liaisons from the public by refusing to publish
visitor logs, honor OPRA requests, or disclose meeting schedules. In
fact, they even retaliate against conscientious employees who disclose
corrupt practices."

"We need to make DEP transparent, return protection of the
environment and the public interest to the forefront of the agency's
mission, and restore the integrity of the Department." concluded Wolfe.

"This is not just a few bad apples," added David Pringle, Campaign
Director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation. "This is systemic

"Given the number of recent arrests and convictions of public
officials, especially given the difficulty of proving corruption, it's
clear that we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg," continued
Pringle. "The only way clean officials can distinguish themselves from
dirty ones is by immediately and aggressively implementing strong steps
like those we're proposing. It is an outrage that it has come to this,
it is an outrage how willing so many are to betray the public trust,
and it is an outrage that so many have fallen so far short even in the
first 10 days since the latest arrests."

Read the CleanGreenNJ platform

Sign petition to Governor Corzine and the legislature

Look at DEP role at heart of scandals

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.