Green

Guest Column

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

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.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

Holiday Shopping At Its Best

Holiday gift buying at its best! This Sunday, Sadie's will be hosting local artists with handmade goods and live music for SOMA's enjoyment.

Light refreshments will be provided, and no cover charge! Find unique gifts and support local artists and causes.

Featuring handmade African fabric jewelry and photography by Maria Luis Estrela
Wooden toys that each sale the ...

SOMA and The New Menstruation Equity Campaign

Menstruation, which has long been an awkward topic for most men, and an embarrassing subject for many women, has lately been part of the conversation in SOMA.

Maplewood attorney and author Jennifer Weiss-Wolf's book Periods Gone Public: Taking A Stand For Menstrual Equity was just published.

The South Orange-based non-profit Girls Helping Girls. Period. focuses solely on ...

AtlantiCast: Episode 008

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll learn about a groundbreaking new clinical trial in the fight against pancreatic cancer, meet an award-winning child neurologist at Goryeb Children’s Hospital and hear about the new Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center at Atlantic Orthopedic Institute – plus stay tuned at the end to see our debut episode of the AtlantiCast Medical ...

Investors Bank October 2017 Fed Normalization Process

The Federal Reserve has increased interest rates twice this year and could do so again in December.  But the economy is hardly booming along and inflation remains tame.  Are the central bankers crazy?  No!  They simply are trying to add some monetary policy arrows to their largely empty quiver.

The near collapse of the world financial system in 2008, forced the Fed to take ...

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Bicycle Thefts Reported

December 1, 2017

November 20 - Bicycle Theft; Sometime over the previous three days, a bicycle was removed from an unsecured garage on Girard Pl.

November 21 - Shoplifting; At approximately 11 p.m., a male concealed Red Bull in a bag at 7-Eleven on Irvington Ave and then fled the store when confronted.

November 22 - Bicycle Theft; At approximately 11 a.m., a male walked down the driveway of a home ...

Events at Dickens Village in Maplewood Continue this Weekend

December 8, 2017

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The "little houses" are back in Ricalton Square in Maplewood Village, with a tree lighting and visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus occurring last Saturday, Dec. 2,  and additional Dickens Village activities planned for this Saturday, Dec. 9, and next Saturday, Dec. 16.

There will be a menorah lighting on Monday, Dec. 18.

There will be Breakfast with ...

Five Holiday Happenings in South Orange

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Tree lightings, parades, and special shopping events are all part of the holiday celebrations in South Orange. Here's what's coming up:

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5 - Christmas at the Hall

Seton Hall University is holding "Christmas at the Hall," their annual tree lighting celebration on Dec. 5. Full details here. 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8 - Light Up the ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, December 12

The GenWealth Group, Maplewood

Jersey Cares Coat Drive

Giving Back

Wed, December 13

The GenWealth Group, Maplewood

Jersey Cares Coat Drive

Giving Back

Wed, December 13, 11:00 AM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

All Wrapped Up! at the Millburn Library

Home & Garden

Wed, December 13, 12:00 PM

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, South Orange

The Purposes and Rhythms of Jewish Living

Education Religions And Spirituality

The Mommy's Review - Coco

Corre, no camines (that’s “run, don’t walk!”) to see Coco, the newest animated feature film from Pixar Animation Studios/Disney. This beautiful movie is something that families will cherish seeing together. Like Moana last year, I took my family (ages 7 to 70+) to see Coco over Thanksgiving weekend, and everyone was delighted by the splendor of this wonderful cinematic ...

Three RWJBarnabas Health Facilities Recognized as 2017 Top Hospitals

December 11, 2017

WEST ORANGE, NJ – Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Jersey City Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center, three RWJBarnabas Health facilities, were recently recognized as Top Teaching Hospitals in 2017 by The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization driving a movement for giant leaps forward in the quality and safety of American health care.

Among thousands of hospitals in the ...

Chinese Firm Buys One Newark Center

NEWARK, NJ - A Chinese investment and development firm has acquired one of Newark's most visible properties.

The sale of One Newark Center to Beijing Ideal Group—a joint-venture between an affiliate of The Praedium Group, LLC and Mack-Cali Realty Corp.—was finalized Thursday, with investment management company JLL completing the acquisition of ...

NJ Transit Service to Resume Monday After Friday's Derailment in Union

December 10, 2017

UNION, NJ – New Jersey Transit reports the Raritan Valley Line trains will resume regular weekday service between Cranford and Newark and High Bridge and Raritan on Monday. Train service was suspended over the weekend after the freight train derailment in Union on Friday afternoon.  

According to their website, NJ Transit says customers may experience possible ...

ConRail Working on Track Clean Up Following Friday's Derailment in Union; Train Service Still Suspended

UNION, NJ – No hazardous material was involved in the freight train derailment Friday afternoon in Union.

“There’s severe damage to the tracks,” said Union Fire Chief Mike Scanio at a press conference Friday evening.  “There’s multiple piles of cars at different locations up and down the span of the tracks from the Roselle Park line all the way through ...

Beginning Mindfulness Meditation Series at Millburn Library

December 11, 2017

The Millburn Free Public Library is welcoming in 2018 with mindfulness - specifically, a beginning mindfulness meditation series being held in January 2018. The program will run on the following Wednesdays: Jan 10, 17, 21, and 31, at 2:00pm in the auditorium. Please register for this 4 week course, because space is limited.

If you have a belief that your mind is "too busy" ...

Canadian Book Retailer Indigo to Open First U.S. Location at The Mall at Short Hills

Canada’s largest book, gift and specialty toy retailer Indigo Books & Music Inc. will join the lineup at The Mall at Short Hills in summer 2018. The brand’s first U.S. location will be designed around its new ‘cultural department store for booklovers’ concept to offer in-store programming, bestselling books, toys, fashion, home ...

South Orange Joins State Safety Campaign To Increase Pedestrian-Motor Vehicle Safety

“Street Smart NJ” targets speed, distractedness and safety awareness for motorists and pedestrians

The head of the South Orange Police Department Traffic Bureau, Lt. Michael Corrigan, announced that South Orange has launched a Street Smart NJ pedestrian safety education campaign aimed at reducing pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes in New Jersey.

The Street Smart NJ campaign is a ...