The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

Christie Outlines Radical Eco-Rollback in New Jersey

Privatization Specialist Tapped to Head Department of Environmental Protection


In his first weeks in office, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has
laid the foundation for a dramatic rollback of public health and
hazardous chemical protections in one of the nation's most polluted
states, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). Today the Legislature will consider his nominee to run the
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a business consultant
with no prior environmental experience who specialized in privatizing
public water systems.

"Governor Christie believes that
environmental protections are hindering our economic recovery, setting
New Jersey on a race to the bottom to reduce pollution controls to a
minimum," stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP
analyst. "Without offering a shred of evidence that the current
economic recession and fiscal crisis are in any way related to
environmental protection, Governor Christie has nonetheless embarked on
a radical environmental retrenchment on a scale unprecedented in this

Through a series of executive orders and transition
plans, the Christie administration has created a "Regulatory Czar" in
the Lt. Governor's Office with veto power over regulations, established
a policy to scale back more stringent state rules to federal minimums,
announced plans to gut scores of DEP technical guidance documents and
issued an order to privatize as many functions as possible, including
compliance monitoring. For example, a long-awaited plan to cut sulfur
content in fuel oil, a move with large public health as well as air
quality benefits has been blocked after intense oil industry lobbying.
In addition -

  • The state's highly-touted greenhouse gas reduction program has put on hold, with funds dedicated to renewable energy diverted;
  • Imposed
    a moratorium on 12 major pending regulations on topics ranging from
    limits on perchlorate in drinking water to controls on wetlands and
    coastal zone developments; and
  • Existing regulations may be nullified following a cost-benefit review overseen by the Lt. Gov.

Martin, whom Gov. Christie nominated to serve as DEP Commissioner, has
a background in finance and worked at the business planning firm
Accenture where he specialized in work on privatization and
deregulation of water and energy public utility systems. Martin has
stated that he hopes that DEP will play a more active role in promoting
economic development, although DEP is a regulatory agency that does not
have economic development as part of its legislative mission.

"Why is a man with zero environmental experience qualified to run a
complex $300 million regulatory agency with a staff of more than
3,000?" asked Wolfe. "Environmental protection should not be made into
another corporate spinoff."

One of two Republican governors
elected in 2009, Christie may offer a template of eco-dismantlement for
other gubernatorial hopefuls seeking to capitalize on anti-government
sentiment. Since many of the DEP programs operate under federal
delegation with national minimum standards, Christie's actions set him
on a collision course with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
headed by former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson.

Read 10 Questions the Legislature should ask DEP nominee Robert Martin

View rollbacks honeycombed throughout the Christie DEP Transition Plan

Look at the Christie moratorium on public health regulations

See how the moratorium effectively kills the perchlorate standard

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.