The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

New Jersey Slashes Pollution Enforcement

Plummeting Fines and Fees Will Shortchange Future Enforcement Budgets


The Christie administration is moving away from tough anti-pollution
enforcement, with anticipated fine revenue falling by more than half,
according to state records posted today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The precipitous drop in fine
revenue will further reduce an already shrinking enforcement presence by
the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which depends
on those funds to pay for inspections and monitoring of polluting

The Christie budget numbers project a steep drop in
DEP enforcement fine revenue from more than $14 million in FY 2009 (the
last year in the books) to an anticipated $6,840,000. This trend is
magnified when looking at total DEP revenues from fees and fines
combined. The figures show an estimated $40 million reduction:

09 (actual collected) $158,757,000

Christie FY 11
(anticipated) $118,754,000

"These reductions
amount to under-the-table givebacks to corporations at the expense of
the public," stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP
Analyst. "In a time of billion dollar deficits and draconian budget
cuts, Governor Christie is cutting polluter fines."

While the
impact will be felt across all programs at DEP, it will fall especially
hard on some high impact areas. For example, a recent report identified
the Kuehne Chemical in South Kearny (between Newark and Jersey City) as
the most dangerous chemical plant in the United State. Yet under the
Christie budget oil and chemical plant safety fines are only expected to
be $50,000, not enough to support a credible deterrent to violations of
critical chemical safety requirements and shifting the burden to pay
for the compliance monitoring program to taxpayers, instead of the
chemical industry.

Other changes also indicate a deliberately
softer approach to polluters. For example, DEP just revived the
Whitman-era Office of Dispute Resolution. Under Whitman, that office
served as industry's back door to override enforcement staff and
negotiate voluntary agreements in lieu of formal enforcement action.
Significantly, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin is housing this Office of
Dispute Resolution under the new Assistant Commissioner for Economic
Development, a former auto industry and Chamber of Commerce lawyer.

"What is going on is about as subtle as changing the DEP motto to
'Let's Make a Deal,'" added Wolfe. "Commissioner Martin repeatedly
talks about metrics as means to measure his record but, by any
yardstick, cutting enforcement fines by half is a bad indicator."

pages C5-6 - Schedule 1 State Revenues for DEP programs

the new Assistant Commissioner for Economic Development

Look at the
massive eco-rollbacks under Christie

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.