Commissioner Bob Martin this week delivered on his promise to reform the Department of Environmental Protection by unveiling a vision statement and environmental policy priorities that will guide the DEP in the coming years as it becomes more effective and consumer-friendly.
"These documents will serve as our blueprints for reforming the DEP, making it a modern, easier-to-navigate agency that works with people and reduces red tape while strongly emphasizing our mission to protect the state's environment,'' Commissioner Martin said. "Across the DEP, change already is occurring. Employees are embracing the idea that our residents are our clients, and that they deserve to be respected and treated as valued customers."
"While our core mission remains protecting the environment - our air, water, land, and natural resources - and public health, will we do this through much more effective and balanced implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations," Commissioner Martin said. "It is critical that we understand and appreciate the impact the DEP's actions have on economic vitality and work hard to balance economic growth and environmental protection. Protecting our environment should drive economic growth, not impede it."
A top priority for the DEP will be to establish a new culture within the agency, with customer service and effective use of performance metrics as key components.
All decisions must be made based on science, facts, data and cost-benefit analyses. The DEP must take full advantage of new technologies to streamline operations and improve service.
The DEP's communications on issues must be constant and transparent, so that decisions are fully and clearly understood, Commissioner Martin said. The DEP will encourage stakeholders to be fully involved in considering issues, providing balance and information that will ensure fully transparent establishment of DEP policies and regulations. This will result in stronger, more effective protection of the environment, while offering better customer service for New Jersey's residents.
The DEP's Vision Statement and Priorities List provide a strategic foundation for structural changes as the DEP continues to evolve. The DEP's priorities include:
* Ensuring successful implementation of the Licensed Site Remediation Professional Program and setting up the Site Remediation Licensing Board, so reforms are successful in cleaning up contaminated sites consistent with New Jersey standards;
* Re-evaluating New Jersey's streams to ensure they get appropriate protection;
* Streamlining the permitting process to be more fair and predictable and improving information technology to help the DEP do its job better;
* Untangling unwieldy and overlapping legislative mandates and regulations that have resulted in process-driven objectives rather than end results;
* Determining the best long-term approach for restoring the ecological health of Barnegat Bay;
* Protecting the ocean from offshore drilling and liquefied natural gas operations;
* Improving water-quality testing for the ocean and coastal waters;
* Working with local governments in developing sensible public access to beaches that municipalities can afford and implement;
* Identifying sustainable sources of funding for operations of state parks, forests and wildlife management areas;
* Aggressively taking on sources of air pollution from other states that affect New Jersey's air quality;
* Accelerating the retrofit of diesel-fueled vehicles to better protect our air quality;
* Developing policies and streamlining regulations to accelerate the development of wind and solar energy;
* Continuing to oppose the deepening of the Delaware River due to the lack of updated environmental impact studies;
* Utilizing the vast knowledge on the Science Advisory Board to promote sound decision making and establish a science plan for the DEP;
The Vision Statement recognizes the DEP's employees are its greatest asset and challenges management to foster a culture of teamwork, professional growth and diversity. It also promises to ensure room at the table for all outside stakeholders to work with the DEP in making real and lasting change happen.
"In this difficult budget climate, we must make sure every tax dollar works as hard as it possibly can," Commissioner Martin said. "We are setting a new, much higher standard for the way the DEP approaches its job. But even as we make cultural and structural changes across the DEP, we will not step back from our core mission of protecting the environment and public health. This is a huge challenge, but one that needs to take place - and one that is already under way."