Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NJ DEP Transformations

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has been undertaking a “transformation” recently…

According to the vision statement on the transformation website, (http://www.state.nj.us/dep/transformation) “the DEP needs to have a new and very clear direction based on a set of realistic priorities that are known to all and managed by strong leadership from the top of the organization.”  Among the core steps to be taken by the environmental agency over the next few years are:

-          Eliminating duplicative and unnecessary programs by dedicating resources to the department’s priorities,
-          Focusing on the communities most in need of pollution reductions,
-          Changing the NJDEP’s interactions with the public to be more customer friendly,
-          Incorporate the views and insights of the NJDEP’s 3,000 professionals in all transformation activities,
-          Encourage stakeholder input,
-          Maximize technology use in leadership, management, and regulation,
-          Simplify business practices, and
-          Review regulations that may be holding the department back from greater environmental protection.

Specifically, over the past few months the NJDEP has been holding a series of program-specific stakeholder meetings designed to be the forum in which the interested and affected members of the community can voice their opinions as to the NJDEP’s direction and have a chance to collaborate on the department’s future.  To the New Jersey environmental community, this process has led to mixed results.  Several dozen stakeholder meetings have been held on a wide range of topics, and the department has yet to iron out the kinks.  The environmental community is looking to gain more thorough access to information before meetings occur (for all stakeholders) so that these meetings can be efficient and productive.  At the least, the environmental community is pushing for a top-down mandate that any “transformations” that occur do not lead to an erosion of our environmental protections.

Some of the active stakeholder meetings that COA has been involved in include:

-          meetings on the state’s environmental enforcement and compliance priorities,
-          meetings on the development of new stormwater rules,
-          meetings on the scientific bases for Category-1 waters, and
-          meetings on NJPDES permits, land use plans, watershed management plans, coastal zone rules, and the Barnegat Bay.

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