NEWARK, NJ - Voters provided permanent relief to communities harmed by industrial pollution on Tuesday by approving an environmental coalition-led ballot question that prevents money earmarked for environmental restoration from being raided by Trenton lawmakers.
The measure was declared passed with 69 percent support.
“By approving Ballot Question 2, voters created a ‘lock box’ for these funds, ending the irresponsible budgeting practice of Trenton politicians stealing the money from polluted communities to plug holes in the state budget,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director of New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, which led the effort to get the question on the ballot.
The question of dedicating Natural Resource Damages (NRD) funds to communities recovering from pollution made it onto the ballot with overwhelming bipartisan support of the Legislature: the vote was 28-8 in the Senate and 56-18-3 in the Assembly.
The amendment was needed to address language in the current state budget that caps the amount of money from NRD settlements allowed to be used for restoration at $50 million, with any additional money being diverted to the general fund. Natural Resource Damages are funds collected from polluters to compensate the public for lost use of natural resources such as rivers, streams, and parks because of pollution. They are separate from any cleanup costs companies are required to pay.
“By passing this measure with overwhelming support, voters have shown once again that they care about their land, water, and air,” said said Kelly Mooij, Vice President of Government Relations at New Jersey Audubon. “We are thrilled to celebrate with communities around New Jersey and to ensure funds paid for by polluters in settlements go back into restoring impacted communities and natural resources.”
"Natural Resource Damage settlements are investments back into communities impacted by years of pollution,” added Debbie Mans, executive director of NY/NJ Baykeeper. “These projects include preservation of open space for neighborhood parks or habitat restoration. One example is the expansion of Newark's waterfront park along the lower Passaic River, a showcase of urban park development."