Today is Earth Day (just in case you haven’t looked at a calendar or talked to anybody). I certainly hope you were able to take some time to enjoy the day.
While today was a good day, I wish I can say that the last several weeks were as good for the environment. Recently, there has been a proposal from the Department of Community Affairs that it have the authority to review, modify or stop any DEP proposed regulation. DEP has instituted a task force to streamline the permitting process. DEP proposed at a joint hearing of the Senate Environment and Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee to outsource the review of site remediation. The recently released energy master plan (EMP) which took almost two years to draft was a disappointment. The EMP is very short of planning and is not visionary and will unlikely play much of role in meeting the State’s goals of reducing goal warming or meeting our energy needs without new fossil fuel plants. Lastly, a few legislators are discussing splitting DEP into two departments. The permitting programs will be moved with the State Planning Commission, Office of Smart Growth, etc. into a Department of Economic Development and Environment. The Fish and Wildlife, Open Space, Parks, etc. will be moved with the Department of Agriculture into a new Department of Agriculture and Conservation. Frankly, one of the complaints about DEP is that the various programs within the Department do not talk with each other. Can you imagine how good the communication when the people are not within the same building or departments.
On a more positive note, the harvesting of horseshoe crabs has been stopped giving the red knot a fighting chance. The coastal and ocean protection council has been passed (and awaiting appointments); the gobal warming response act was enacted; and at least there is discussion on how to fix site remediation. Last year the citizens of New Jersey told its government that we expected the government to protect open space and that we would pay for it. We are reducing fine particulate matter, which can lead to or exacerbate respiratory disease, from the buses that our children ride to and from school.
I hope that you take today and the next few days to enjoy mother nature. Also, please spend a few minutes to take one action to help improve the environment.