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New Jersey Appellate Court Upholds Controversial Environmental Rule

Mar 22, 2013 04:16 PM EDT

A New Jersey appellate court announced on March 22 their decision to uphold the controversial rule given by the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) allowing the agency to waive environmental regulations under certain circumstances.

These circumstances include a public emergency, a situation in which there would be no net environmental benefit or in the case that the regulations are deemed unduly burdensome or conflicting.

The rule comes as a result of a directive given by Gov. Chris Christie that all agencies allow for waivers.

Thus far, 28 groups have called for the repeal of the rule, all of which - according to the Philadelphia Inquirer - have vowed to take it as far as they can.

"This is just the end of round one," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told the Inquirer. "We will continue to fight on this rule whether it is in the Supreme Court, through the Legislature, or each individual waiver when granted."

In the other corner are the New Jersey Builders Association, New Jersey Business and Industry Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute and the state's commercial real estate development association.

And, of course, there's the DEP, who defends the rule as one that will only apply when appropriate.

"As we've said time and again, the rule was designed to be used in very limited circumstances and under specific criteria, and that is how things are turning out," DEP spokesman Larry Hagna told the Inquirer regarding the requests that have been approved thus far.

In all, 14 applications have been accepted for review, nine of which have been rejected as incomplete and two of which were denied. Of the two rejected, one was submitted by a machine company hoping to cover contaminated soil rather than remove it.

Despite all of this, those who are against the bill fear the abuse of it in the case of favoritism, for example. Others point to a future in which there will be more requests than can be thoroughly reviewed. And ultimately, besides fearing negative environmental consequences, a group statement released by the opposition reveals a concern that the rule allows for an overreach of executive power.

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