The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

New Jersey to Privatize Land Use Permitting

Contractors to Write Flood Control, Coastal Wetlands and Other Approvals


New Jersey is now looking for private companies to review applications
and draft permits for all of its land use programs, according to a
request for proposal posted today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). The five-year contract would radically extend
Governor Chris Christie's privatization agenda into regulatory decisions
traditionally seen as inherently governmental.

The request for proposal quietly posted on a state web site
solicits bids from contractors to assume permit review and drafting for
virtually all state land use regulations, including permits for flood
control, coastal protection, wetlands, tidelands, stormwater management,
the touted Highlands area protections and even threatened and
endangered species reviews. Up to $600,000 "is expected to be
available" during the first year of a five-year base contract that could
be extended to a total of eight years, however, the source of funds in a
strapped state budget are not identified. Bidding is slated to close
on November 4, 2010.

"This is not just the fox guarding the henhouse; this is the fox
issuing henhouse tickets to other foxes," stated New Jersey PEER
Director Bill Wolfe, noting that privatization of air pollution permits
under former Governor Christie Whitman scandalously imploded after state
consultants were discovered stealing proprietary information from
permit applications. "This is a hurried, secretive corporate giveaway
of the entire suite of safeguards for soil, water, wildlife and

The request for proposal is structured on a sliding scale, where
the contractor could take just a portion or all of the permit
preparation duties from Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
scientists and technical specialists who now review applications and
write conditions attached to permits. The DEP Commissioner under
Christie, Robert Martin, had no prior environmental experience but did
specialize in privatization and deregulation of water and energy public
utility systems.

"This contract is structured so that any DEP scientist who
raises a troublesome issue could find his or her job outsourced at the
drop of a hat," Wolfe added, noting that an internal DEP "cultural
transformation" stresses collaboration with business. "Privatization is
a means to impose corporate control over what are supposed to be
independent government experts."

The land use permit contract would continue a steady march of
privatization of state public health and environmental protections. For
example, the Christie administration put a number of industry
consultants onto a newly formed Science Advisory Board which will
determine what and how science is used to support tighter regulation of
chemicals and pollutants, work formerly done by DEP scientists.
Similarly, DEP is putting the finishing touches on a Corzine
administration-backed plan to privatize oversight of clean-ups of toxic
chemical sites, substituting for state review to ensure that hazards are

"Corporate consultants can work both sides of the street,
advising polluters one day and the regulators the next," Wolfe
concluded. "Business as usual will soon take on a special ominous
meaning in New Jersey."

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.