Green

Guest Column

Sustained, Severe Cuts Equal Setbacks at NJ Department of Environmental Protection

f25a08c5a111bc781bca_7962.jpg
f25a08c5a111bc781bca_7962.jpg

Long-term budget and staff cuts have severely impacted the ability of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to carry out critical work to protect New Jersey’s environment and residents. This has serious implications for wildlife, public health and our economy. DEP is charged with managing and protecting the State’s environment and natural resources.

This requires an adequate budget, which is a well-planned investment for our state’s future through safeguarding public goods such as clean air and clean drinking water supplies. Rebuilding the DEP should be a pressing priority for the incoming administration.

DEP funding comes from several sources, including but not limited to: the General Fund, permitting, fines, fees, leases and the federal government. The Department’s budget has not grown sufficiently to meet its needs. Additionally, influxes of federal funds directed at addressing specific issues, for example Sandy Recovery, have reduced the overall revenue coming from the state’s General Fund and have thus left critical roles unfilled.

Sign Up for E-News

These cuts impact not only protection of natural resources but also result in increased waits for permits, reduced transparency and impacted enforcement actions. Park projects are back-logged, recreation opportunities reduced, and fisheries shut-down for lack of science. Consider the following examples:

State parks: The DEP is the state’s largest manager of preserved lands, forests, and parks. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of acres of land. State parks have been forced to reduce services such as educational and interpretive programs, park police, and vital natural resource management due to the continued decline of staff and budget support. Parks in the most densely populated state in the nation—and the visitor experiences offered there—deserve better.

Fisheries: The DEP is charged with managing, preserving, and protecting more than 500 species of wildlife and fish. It’s a large task and with insufficient resources, there are consequences. In 2012, the river herring fishery was shut down in part because the state lacked the personnel or funding to collect the data to prove whether the fishery was sustainable. Proper data would enable either a well-informed closure to promote population recovery, or prohibit the needless closing of a fishery.

Permitting: Delays in processing permits have resulted in delays in cleaning up contaminated sites. Remedial Action Permits allow the DEP to evaluate the proposed and ongoing cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated brownfield sites per the Site Remediation Reform Act. These permits help to evaluate and address issues such as remaining soil and/or water contamination, and thus play an important role in protecting public health. Lack of resources for review increased average wait time for these permits - approximately 200 days.

Enforcement: Reduced staff (approximately 40 fewer inspectors from 2005 levels) carrying out enforcement actions has resulted in fewer citations and issuance of penalties and fines by nearly 50 percent. Clearly, this reduces not only a source of revenue, but also reduces deterrents for environmental violations. As one example, data from the Division of Parks and Forestry reveals that penalties collected in 2014 were half of those collected in 2009 (with various years showing fluctuating amounts, but a generally consistent downward trend).

Collectively, cuts across all divisions of the DEP has taken a real toll. However, because actions such as enforcement and permitting are often seen as revenue-generating, a disproportionate number of cuts occur on the “green side” of DEP, which includes the Divisions of Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Forestry. Within the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP), staffing has been reduced roughly 25 percent in the past seven years and the General Fund contribution has declined over those years as well.

A popular argument remains that during fiscally challenging times we simply cannot afford to invest in our wildlife. But such an investment is far from frivolous considering fish and wildlife populations in turn bring in over $100 million in state tax revenue and billions of dollars into our economy through fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. Furthermore, proactively protecting wildlife and avoiding endangered species status actually saves taxpayer dollars in the end (while preserving a significant income generating natural resource in the State).

The dire funding and staffing trends at DEP must be reversed to properly protect NJ residents and to preserve our state’s valuable natural resources. Investment must be made in revitalizing our parks, and modernization encouraged to make DEP more transparent, and predictable for those interacting with the agency. If we continue to chronically under-invest in our natural capital, the State will experience not only a decline in the many benefits these areas provide our residents, such as clean air and water and safe places to play, but also experience a significant loss of revenue in the coming years and over the long term.

 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Hanover/Florham Park

Hanover Park Wrestlers Place First at Districts

February 18, 2018

EAST HANOVER, N.J.- Congratulations to Hanover Park Wrestlers for taking first place in the districts. Eight hornets took first place;

Joey Olivieri 
Jake Bursese 
Dom Merola
Dom DiFrancescantonio 
Nicky Raimo
Mike rubin
Sean Conley
Matt Liberato 

Dan Jiminez placed second, Nick Zarra  and Sebastian Bassolino both placed third. Next up for ...

Travel Spotlight - Another Holiday, Another Encounter with Marine Life along Jersey Shore

February 19, 2018

SPRING LAKE, NJ — In neighboring Spring Lake, a baby seal made its way onto the beach near the north end pavilion early this afternoon.

Photographer Nancy Orlowski discovered the harbor seal pup near the jetty situated just south of the pavilion on Ocean Avenue at Ludlow Avenue.

The seal’s Presidents Day appearance on February 19 comes one day after a whale was spotted off the ...

Decades Rewind Returns to the Jersey Shore

Decades Rewind transports their audience to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s!!

RED BANK, N.J.- Returning to the Count Basie Theatre, Friday, March 9th, 2018 Decades Rewind, the national touring concert, dance party and theatrical performance all wrapped up in one blockbuster, high energy show, celebrates the hits of the 60’s, 70’s and ...

Travels Spotlight - Coast Guard Ends Search for Fishermen Lost at Sea, Fund Established to Help Family

TAPintoTravels is here to promote travel whether it is for work or pleasure.  Most of our reporting is fun and helpful.  However on rare occasions, we do have to report on heart breaking stories.  It is always hardest when it involves men with families that have been lost at sea.  Please consider assisting this family in need and keep them in your thoughts or ...

Travel to Belmar for Chance Glimpse of an Adorable Baby Seal

TAPintoTravels — All eyes will be on everyone’s favorite groundhog today, but it was a baby seal that stole the spotlight yesterday at the Belmar marina.

During the morning of February 1, borough public works employees were working at the marina’s boat ramp when they noticed the gray pup sitting on the jet-ski dock, said Ed Markey, who works in the department and also ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!

 

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_48120e9b65ba8f8f5775_requiem_art_no_text

Wed, February 21, 7:00 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Mozart Requiem - CHS Choirs & Chamber Orchestra

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_aad5bb0a6b21207aa8dc_58dbe121e4b0d00ef04eec09

Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

CycleBar Livingston, Livingston

Free Rookie Rider Classes at CycleBar Livingston

Health & Wellness

Mon, February 26, 1:30 PM

Livingston Public Library, Livingston

Monday at the Movies: WILD OATS

Arts & Entertainment

This Year's S.T.E.M. Fair at Brooklake School Was Their Biggest, So Far

February 18, 2018

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - On Tuesday, January 9, Brooklake Elementary School in Florham Park hosted their annual S.T.E.M. fair.  According to principal, Dr. Steven Caponegro, it “had the most participants recorded, approximately 90 students.”

The fair was coordinated by Mr. Chris Perruso, who is the fifth-grade science and math teacher. In order to be a part of the fair, ...

German Language School of Morris County Raise $1,000 for Market Street Mission

February 19, 2018

February, the month of all things red and romantic with red, hearts, roses, and chocolates, is also a time to show our love of friends and community. Students from the German Language School of Morris County (www.njlearnsgerman.org and www.glsmc.org), took that lesson to heart and raised $1,000 for The Market Street Mission (www.marketstreet.org), a Morristown haven for the needy for more than ...