State

State Water Supply Master Plan
New Jersey last adopted a state water supply master plan in 1996, almost 20 years ago. The state’s failure to adopt a new plan to ensure an adequate supply of safe drinking water in the most densely populated state in the country is unconscionable.  It also raises questions over how new census data relating to growth in New Jersey relates to assumptions in the prior document based on 1990 data.

RHA’s position: The current plan is 20 years old and already maxed out (8.8M) in terms of what it can do for our 2015 population. We must have a new plan, and a better process for keeping it updated, in order to ensure clean drinking water for all NJ residents.

Meanwhile, the revised State Strategic Plan no longer says anything of value about conservation nor forces any change at the local levels after the current administration reviewed and revised it. The Highlands Regional Master Plan could be the next plan to be gutted. We need to help make sure this doesn’t happen.

UPDATE: RHA was invited to testify in front of the State Senate Legislative Oversight Committee in April. The Department of Environmental Protection didn’t show nor did it release a draft of a new plan for review. We also submitted a letter to them along with other conservation groups.

Exxon Settlement

The $225 million amount is just 3 percent of the damages that the state documented at a 2014 trial, and that the deal “inexplicably” includes hundreds of other Exxon sites and gas stations that could have contaminated groundwater and were not part of the original litigation.

RHA’s position: This settlement is a horrific “budget gimmick” by the Governor and will in no way cover the remediation needed at these sites. We are fighting this to prevent precedent from being set.

RHA Action: RHA testified before the State Senate Environmental Committee in March that this is a travesty for New Jersey. Not only is it pennies on the dollar, but the Governor can and will divert those pennies to things other than environmental cleanup. We will continue to do whatever we can to negate this settlement.

Diversion Of “Green” Funds To Balance Budget

In another bid to prevent environmental funds from being used to plug holes in the state budget, a Senate committee approved a measure that would ask voters to back a resolution that would prevent such diversions.

RHA’s position: We support this legislation. This may help prevent “Exxon Settlements” in the future when money is scarce and budgets aren’t balanced.

RHA action: RHA testified in front of the State Senate Environmental Committee in March that this is a travesty for New Jersey. Not only is it pennies on the dollar, but the Governor can and will divert those pennies to things other than environmental cleanup. We will continue to do whatever we can to negate this settlement.

Permanent Open Space Funding and Distribution

After years of pushing for a stable source of funding to preserve these lands, conservationists successfully lobbied and voters approved a constitutional amendment to dedicate money to that effort. However, the Christie administration is diverting 25 percent of the $80 million dedicated to that purpose, most of which would go to pay salaries, maintenance, and operation of state parks and wildlife management areas overseen by the Department of Environmental Protection. In the past, up to $200 million a year would be used to buy open space, farmland, and develop urban parks.

RHA’s position: We support permanent funding and a fair distribution of those funds that cannot be manipulated or used for other purposes by the Governor. We were part of the Keep It Green coalition that brought this to a successful public referendum in 2014.

UPDATE: We are now discussing and proposing an appropriate distribution of these funds to include in the Implementing Statute, while trying to keep the Governor’s hands out of the till as much as possible. These funds were never meant to pay for management/administration salaries. Nothing has been approved yet, but we are close.

Drinking Water Contaminant Levels

The state Senate voted 31-7 to approve a bill that would create a maximum contaminant limit (MCL) for 1,2,3 trichloropropane (TCP), a chemical used in pesticides, degreasers and varnish removers, and which has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen.

RHA’s position: We reviewed this bill and support its approval. All contaminants that are a health hazard to anything in the ecosystem, including us, should be prevented or severely limited. We have reviewed and are helping to get approved the current regulation and limits in question.

UPDATE: The bill is on the Governor’s desk.

Pipelines

Pipelines like the proposed PennEast project could cut across thousands of acres of land preserved with public dollars. The State must look at each pipeline proposal individually and not en toto. The safety record and potential for spills increases as each pipeline is built.

RHA’s position: New Jersey does not have a Master Plan that deals with these kinds of projects. Each pipeline project is reviewed as if no other pipelines exist. Utilities don’t want to share right of ways when they should to limit the overall footprint. The State can use eminent domain to force a path through lands, even preserved lands. Preserved lands are eyed favorably because they are now cheaper to license. We want a Master Plan that deals with all of these kinds of projects properly.

RHA’s action: We have released a policy statement in support of those working to prevent more pipelines being installed in the state.

Commercial Solar “Farms”
New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) now defines solar electric generating facilities as “inherently beneficial uses;” however, the law has not removed the necessity to prove that the solar facility will not frustrate the overall planning efforts of the town or become a detriment to the well-being and safety of the community. In other words, inherently beneficial does not mean “permitted.” Green energy shouldn’t come at the expense of natural ecosystems, but rather from land that is already impervious like buildings, parking lots, and roads.

RHA’s position: We love renewables as sources of energy for New Jersey, in the right place. Though these are already referred to as “beneficial uses,” we want that to be better clarified so that anyone looking to install renewable infrastructure, like solar panels or wind turbines, is forced to cover current impervious surfaces first, like buildings and parking lots, before being allowed to use open land.

Commercial Deer Harvesting

Assembly Bill A3039 establishes a commercial deer harvesting license and allows commercial harvest of deer. The bill (introduced on March 24, 2014 by Assemblywoman Casagrande) is awaiting action by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

RHA’s position: We agree New Jersey has a serious problem with deer and, left unchecked, they will continue to destroy the health and resilience of New Jersey forests. We are not certain commercial deer harvesting is the answer though. It might be something that can be modeled after our commercial fishing regulations to ensure “harvesting” is licensed and targets/locations are based on science.

RHA’s action: We have been part of a round table to discuss this issue and how best to deal with it. No decisions have been made.