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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
6/18/03

Contact: Elaine Makatura
(609) 984-1795

DEP RESPONDS TO SENATE BUDGET PROPOSAL

(03/89) TRENTON – Calling a budget proposal released on Monday evening by Senator Littell and other members of the Senate Budget Committee "irresponsible," New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today said cuts in funding will hurt shore protection, open space and toxic waste clean up.

"This budget proposal reflects the wrong values for the people of New Jersey. They will be weakening environmental protection under the guise of fiscal prudence. Under the prior administration, DEP's budget was slashed, programs and personnel cut, and standards in enforcement weakened," DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell said.

The Littell-led proposal for a $138 million reduction in the capital construction project threatens $75.2 million constitutionally dedicated for open space preservation throughout the state, $25 million for shore protection, $30.7 million for hazardous waste cleanups, and $24.9 million for underground tank cleanup and brownfield redevelopment.

"The McGreevey administration has identified clean air, clean drinking water, a healthier environment and a better quality of life among its highest priorities. The people of New Jersey share these values. We are making real progress in our efforts to reverse the mistakes of the past. Now that we have begun to turn the corner, this budget undermines our progress and ignores the will of the people," Campbell said.

The budget proposal targets programs that protect the quality of New Jersey’s 127 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline. Specifically, funding for shore protection programs that would replenish beaches is vulnerable under the proposal.

"The Jersey shore has made tourism one of the state’s highest-ranking industries. Tourism along our coastal communities contributes upwards of $16 billion to the state economy and employs hundreds of thousands of people. In the face of those facts, the proposal to slash shore funding is beyond all reason," Campbell said.

The DEP budget would fund some 40 shore protection projects in coastal communities including Absecon Island and Brigantine in Atlantic County; and the Belmar to Manasquan beach fill in Monmouth County.

This year, the DEP received requests for more than $400 million for open space preservation funding from local governments and nonprofit organizations that are working to combat sprawl, provide local parks and preserve New Jersey’s remaining precious, undeveloped land resources. The proposed cuts would delay state support for many of these projects.

The additional proposal to divert $5 million recovered in natural resource damage settlements will prevent the state from undertaking restoration projects to compensate New Jerseyans for economic and natural resource losses caused by contamination of drinking water and fisheries. After many years of neglect, the McGreevey Administration is stepping up efforts to ensure that responsible parties for contamination and for lost use of natural resources restore ecological injuries and pay damage assessments. If the proposal is adopted, communities that have already waited too long for the state fulfill its role as the trustee and protector of the people’s natural resources will have to wait even longer.

This proposal will also effect hazardous waste cleanup funding for contaminated sites where responsible parties either refuse or are unable to conduct remediation work. Major projects include the Horseshoe Road, Roebling Steel, and Higgins Disposal Superfund sites, which require state funding to ensure federal trust fund monies are available for these cleanups.

In addition, these cuts would reverse the progress Governor James E. McGreevey has achieved -- with bipartisan support in the Legislature -- to make underground storage tank cleanup funds available to municipalities and developers to restore brownfield sites to productive use.

 

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