Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Real State of Our State - New Jersey's Waters are Trashed Top to Bottom

Clean Ocean Action, along with ANJEC, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Environment New Jersey, NJ Environmental Federation, the NJ Environmental Lobby, the NJ Highlands Coalition, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, and the Sierra Club released a statement calling for the Governor and the New Jersey Legislature to take positive steps towards ending rollbacks of environmental regulations and towards protecting our future.  The text of the statement is below:

As the Governor delivers his State of the State today, the state’s environmental community came together to voice their concerns over the state of our state’s waters: nearly every drop is polluted. The major pollutants of concern across the state – phosphorus and nitrogen – stem from overdevelopment of critical watershed lands, making development the number one threat to New Jersey’s waters.

As reported by the Asbury Park Press, Courier News, and other Gannett papers New Jersey’s waters are in dire straits. There is only one place in the state where you can safely swim, drink the water and eat the fish without restrictions. The paper based its Sunday, January 14th news coverage on NJDEP reports prepared for the USEPA.

The group challenged the Legislature and Governor Christie to stand up to developers, stop the rollbacks to our clean water protections and move forward with an agenda that will save New Jersey’s failing waterways – instead of making them worse.

“Developers have given us a legacy of pollution. Instead of letting developers dictate our water quality policy, it’s time for the Legislature and Governor Christie to make decisions that are in the best interest of New Jersey. This means stopping all attacks on our clean water protections and forging an agenda that focuses on protecting, not polluting. The Governor’s consideration of the dirty water bill today further solidifies the need to chart a new course, and make clean water a priority again in the state,” said Megan Fitzpatrick, clean water advocate with Environment New Jersey.

To reverse the fate of New Jersey’s waters the group of environmental leaders pointed to several key priorities: fully implement the Highlands Act, set a pollution limit for Barnegat Bay, ban fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, expand development free buffers, protect the state’s last remaining forests, and commit to upgrading inadequate stormwater infrastructure and sewer systems.

 “The state of our state is that it is under siege by developers and has been for years.  They have paved, striped, and mangled nearly every corner of New Jersey leaving essentially no waterway unharmed.  At the same time, developers abused the political system with contributions resulting in many elected officials beholden to their reckless actions.  It’s left our state’s waterways polluted and us with a huge clean up bill; this must not stand.  It’s time for developers and those who fail to defend our quality of life to be held accountable,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action.

“As the Governor delivers the State of State address the state of our waterways are failing. The Legislature and the Governor are putting our drinking water at risk by siding with developers and polluters over protecting our drinking water. New Jersey has some of the most polluted waters in the nation and instead of cleaning up our waters they are roll back vital protections. This is the power of special interest money threatening our environment and our future. This is wrong and we are going to fight to change this and protect our drinking water for future generation,” continued Jeff Tittel, director of NJ Sierra.

“We have tremendous challenges facing our state to protect and restore our environment, work we must do to guard our quality of life, our communities and our children's future. Most politicians seem to more interested in protecting special interests than the public interest. That is the major political challenge facing New Jersey,” said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society.

“While we are in the midst of the longest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, when we are vulnerable with fear and uncertainty about our future, it is absolutely shameful that the builder's lobby is aggressively and successfully exploiting us to undo the rules and regulations that protect our water supply and waterways, rules that are absolutely necessary for a sustainable future in New Jersey,” added Julia Somers, executive director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

“Our rivers, wetlands and environment are not luxuries or indulgences to be set aside when it is politically or financially expedient.  They are the irreplaceable and fundamental basis of our very lives – present and future.  In New Jersey we have worked and voted time and time again to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the lands we can safely live on.  Governor Christie needs to stand with the people, not the polluters, and veto this bad legislation,” stated Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.

“The biological science is as clear as the political science and the result is dirty water and dirty politics. Development is trashing our waterways, developers scapegoat the environment, and too many politicians looking for an easy fix, sound bite and campaign cash do the builders' dirty work. Until the politicians become statesmen or the citizens demand it, the state of the state's waters will continue to be just like our politics, too dirty,” added David Pringle, campaign director of the NJ Environmental Federation.

“By passing legislation that benefits a few special interests, the Legislature is turning its back on years of good land use planning and environmental protection. They are allowing development to proceed piecemeal, without regard to where capacity can support it or residents want it,” said Sandy Batty from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions

Having only one stream in New Jersey that is clean and healthy enough to drink as well as swim and fish in is disgraceful. It is clear that developers are paving the way to dirty water. Governor Christie and the Legislature need to stop making it easier for the special interests to pollute our water. Clean water is essential for drinking and a healthy environment, but also for a strong economy. New Jersey's leading industries including pharmaceutical, agricultural, and tourism, need clean water to survive. Until our elected officials decide to start listening to the people of New Jersey and make clean water a priority, our quality of life, environment, and economy will continue to suffer,” concluded Jennifer Coffey, policy director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.

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