Move forward on cleanup bills
News Source: Asbury Park Press
June 19, 2012
Maybe this time good sense will prevail, and stronger measures to protect and restore Barnegat Bay will become law.
Three bills approved by the Senate Environmental Committee Monday are essentially the same measures vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie last year. He claimed the legislation would unfairly burden taxpayers with extra fees and taxes.
Christie’s previous opposition shouldn’t stop the Legislature from trying to get the bills to the governor’s desk. Nor should it prevent the public from urging Christie to sign them into law.
Bill S-820 would allow municipalities and municipal utilities to create new stormwater utilities within Ocean County, while S-821 would let Ocean County impose a fee on developers to help pay for stormwater runoff improvements.
The bills do not mandate taxes. They simply permit governing bodies to levy them. Christie’s opposition seems to be based on his assumption that the government will act irresponsibly. What is truly irresponsible is allowing Barnegat Bay to become further degraded by inaction.
The third bill, S-1414, would require the DEP to adopt a total maximum daily load, or TMDL standard, for fertilizer-rich pollution flowing into the bay. Christie conditionally vetoed the last version of this bill when state Department of Environmental Protection officials said it set an arbitrary deadline for developing a very complex standard. As he did the first time, bill sponsor Sen. Robert Smith, D-Middlesex, wrote the new version to set a two-year deadline for the DEP.
It may be difficult to come up with a TMDL standard, but just because something is hard doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken the TMDL route for the restoration effort on Chesapeake Bay, and EPA officials have been telling their New Jersey counterparts it’s the best way to help Barnegat Bay.
According to EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, New Jersey has a dismal record at addressing the problem and has yet to even come up with a plan. Enck said a TMDL, which would establish important benchmarks and provide accountability for the cleanup effort, should be workable within a couple of years (see oped, page A15). The state DEP should know that delay will not make the job any easier.
The DEP is investing tens of millions of dollars in improvement projects to help stop the flow of pollution into the bay. These bills would add much-needed heft to those efforts.