ROXBURY, NJ – Unswayed by requests from anti-Fenimore Landfill activists, the chairman of the New Jersey Highlands Council refused to appoint council member Tracy Carluccio, an environmental advocate, to a new committee that will oversee testing of water near the Roxbury dump.
In doing so, council chairman Kurt Alstede said Carluccio, despite her education and qualifications, is not a “consensus builder” and is naive about “state politics.” His comments were made at the April 16 Highlands Council meeting.
“I’ll be very honest and blunt,” Alstede told the audience, which included a number of Roxbury area people who petitioned him to include Carluccio in the new Fenimore Water Quality Committee. “I think, Tracy, you’re extremely intelligent. You have wonderful academic knowledge. But I don’t think you’re a consensus builder.”
Alstede named council members Mike Francis, Carl Richko and Michael Dressler to the new committee.
Under Highlands Council rules, the chairman has the authority to decide which members of the council serve on special committees. The Fenimore Water Quality Committee, established March 19, was formed to focus on “the potential impacts to water resources” from the closed landfill.
Those pushing for Carluccio to be named to the panel point to her background: she is deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and, according to her profile on the council website, has been employed as an “environmental advocate” for more than 25 years.
But in explaining his reasoning for not placing Carluccio on the committee, Alstede suggested that the East Amwell Township resident’s background of environmental advocacy might impact her objectivity.
“The reason I didn’t place you on this committee is because I don’t believe you’re the right person to function in this environment to produce objective, positive results,” Alstede said. “It’s as simple as that folks. It’s my prerogative. I put the three people that I feel will do the best job in this environment, who understand science, who understand state politics and who will do the job effectively. They care about you and they will listen to you.”
Carluccio, at that point, said, “I don’t think state politics should have anything to do with this,” a comment that drew applause from her supporters.
The interchange was filmed by Roxbury Environmental Action Coalition (REACT) President Bob Schultz.
In an interview, Alstede insisted he simply wants a committee that will be open-minded. “I don’t think there are two sides to this,” he said. “I think we’re all on the same side of wanting to do as much as possible to mitigate and remove as many problems as possible with the landfill. That’s the very reason we appointed this committee. There are three very capable people appointed to the committee and I think it’s premature to judge what the committee is going to do until the committee progresses with its work.”
Alstede, who owns Alstede Farms in Chester, also stressed that the committee members need not be environmental scientists because the stream sampling and other data collection will be done by experts. “We have scientists on our staff,” he said. “A council member’s job is not to put on waders and get out there in the stream … Tracy is a valued member of the council. She’s passionate about issues that are important to her. But the three people I appointed were the best people for this job.”