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

Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro

Food to Travel For - Two Jersey Shore Dining Hot Spots in National Limelight for Specialty Eats

May 12, 2018

BELMAR, NJ — Two Belmar specialty eateries have made the national food-hopping map. Coney Waffle Ice Cream and Sweet Shop on Ocean Avenue and Hoagitos in Belmar Plaza are featured this month on television shows touting what makes them stand out from the rest.

The over-the-top ice cream creations of Coney Waffle are in the spotlight in Viceland’s “The Ice Cream Show” in ...

Local Weekend Travel Fun - Art Show in Flemington, May 19-20

May 16, 2018

FLEMINGTON, NJ - Interested in original art by area artists?

"Come to the Small Works Art Show, and support local history at the same time,” says Catherine Langley, co-chair of the event, which will benefit Friends of Historic Flemington.

The show and sale will be Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 20 from noon to 6 p.m., at 123 Main St. here.

Mayor LaBarbiera Issues Statement to Grieving Community, #ParamusStrong

May 18, 2018

PARAMUS, NJ – Thursday evening, Mayor Rich LaBarbiera released the following statement to his community in regards to the horrific accident that affected so many.

"Today, our community was shaken by a horrific accident resulting in two tragic, senseless deaths of a teacher and a student. As a father of three sons, I cannot fathom the level of pain and despair that the family of the ...

Hackensack Music Festival Coming May 26

HACKENSACK, NJ -- An array of talented musicians will be sharing the stage of Saturday, May 26 as the Hackensack Performing Arts Center (HACPAC) hosts the Hackensack Music Festival.

Among them will be trumpeter Duke Jones, the co-founder and former member of multiple Grammy award-winning R&B/pop group Atlantic Starr. He is also an award-winning music producer, having worked in ...

Tour of Somerville Weekend: Quarter-Mile Sprints Add High-Speed Dynamic

May 23, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ  - The grand daddy of ‘em  all, the 75-year-old Tour of Somerville 50-mile bicycle race, anchors a weekend of world class cycling in Bound Brook and downtown Somerville May 24-28, with a new event added Sunday night to draw more spectators downtown.

Spectators this year will see an additional day of racing beginning with the Bound Brook Criterium on ...

Travels Hero Spotlight - 70-Year-Old Grandfather Completes 1,500-Mile Bicycle Ride from Key West to Morristown

MORRISTOWN, NJ – You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream and 70-year-old Morris Township resident Paul Kiczek proved that this weekend as he completed a 1,500-mile bike ride from Key West, FL to his hometown. He was joined by his family at the end of the final leg of his month-long trek and was even joined for the last quarter-mile by his five grandchildren in ...

Port Authority Names New Police Superintendent

NEW YORK, NY The Port Authority named Edward Cetnar – the agency’s Deputy Superintendent of Police since November 2014 – as the new Superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department, in a press release Monday afternoon.

Cetnar replaces Michael Fedorko, who announced his retirement last week after serving as Port Authority Police superintendent since 2009.

In his ...

Funnel Cloud Appears over South Plainfield

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - A line of heavy thunderstorms roared through South Plainfield Tuesday evening with a resident capturing a funnel cloud twisting down west and north of Spring Lake Park. The photo captures the funnel cloud which can be seen in the  left-hand side of the photo.

The photo captures a school bus driving by, and the South Plainfield Volunteer Fire Department ...