CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION FILES NOTICES OF APPEAL IN FEDERAL CIRCUIT COURT
OVER DELAWARE DEEPENING PROJECT
(11/P18) TRENTON - Demonstrating its unwavering commitment to protecting South Jersey's environment, the Christie Administration today filed notices with the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia informing the court it will appeal rulings that will allow the deepening of the Delaware River's shipping channel to proceed despite the lack of updated environmental studies.
The Christie administration wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform these studies to prove the project won't harm the river's ecology, in particular ecologically sensitive wetlands and creeks adjacent to dredge disposal sites in South Jersey.
"It is irresponsible for the Army Corps to move ahead in disregard of New Jersey's objections and without engaging in a thorough and open review that will determine the environmental impacts of this project," said Governor Chris Christie. "New Jersey is committed to using every legal tool necessary to force the Army Corps to do the right thing and update its badly outdated environmental impact studies and thoroughly address our concerns in a forthright and open manner."
"This project calls for the disposal of millions of tons of sediments along the river in South Jersey, mostly in environmentally sensitive areas," Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said. "The Army Corps must take seriously its obligation to make absolutely certain that dredging up sediments contaminated by industrial pollutants will not harm this fragile ecosystem or the river itself. We continue to oppose a project that is not adequately justified economically and disproportionately places the environmental burden on New Jersey."
The state's decision to appeal comes as the Obama Administration decided this week not to provide federal funds for the deepening project, according to Rep. Rob Andrews, who has been critical of the Army Corps for failing to meet required environmental regulations for this project.
The Army Corps and Philadelphia Regional Port Authority have continued to push this project despite many environmental questions and the lack of support in the federal budget process going back many years.
New Jersey argues the Army Corps violated conditions of the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Coastal Zone Management Act by failing to perform new environmental impact analyses that would address changes in the project and provide more and complete testing of contaminants in river sediments.
The bulk of the Army Corps' environmental analyses were done in 1997, with limited updates made several years ago. More recent DEP testing suggest the river sediments contain elevated levels of PCBs, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other contaminants that the Army Corps did not previously address.
The state further argues that the Army Corps responded to its concerns about needing better environmental data by using a perfunctory review process that limited the DEP's ability to secure new data and limited public involvement and input.
"The Army Corps never did the comprehensive review nor engaged in the robust public dialogue that is vital to making critical decisions about the future of the Delaware River," Commissioner Martin said. "The Army Corps needs to collect new data, utilize the best science available, and actively engage the affected states, the public, and all stakeholders before proceeding any further with this questionable project."
The project calls for the deepening of the river's 102-mile shipping channel from Philadelphia to the mouth of Delaware Bay. The local sponsor of the project is the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Joel A. Pisano, presiding in Trenton, rejected the DEP's motions for summary judgment to block the project and granted the Army Corp's motion for summary judgment.
In November, Judge Sue L. Robinson, presiding in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., rejected a request for a permanent injunction from the state of Delaware and supported by New Jersey and environmental groups. She also lifted an earlier temporary injunction that limited deepening of the river to 12 miles of the channel in Delaware waters. This first phase of the project was completed last year.
New Jersey has stood firmly in opposition of the project along with the Delaware Riverkeeper, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the National Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action and Delaware Nature Society.