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For Immediate Release: Dec 22, 2000
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

N.J. DEP EMPLOYEES SAY WHITMAN ADMINISTRATION SOFT ON POLLUTERS

One in Four Report Orders to Ignore Violations


Washington, DC - New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, named today as the next US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator by President elect Bush, has a poor environmental protection record, according to a survey of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) employees conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The 1997 PEER survey registered a sharp de-emphasis on enforcement, excessive corporate influence and manipulation of scientific findings under Governor Whitman.

"According to the professional staff who worked under Governor Whitman in New Jersey, pressure to block enforcement of anti-pollution laws, back-door efforts to gut regulations and a pervasive fear of retaliation have been the hallmarks of her tenure," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Cozy accommodation of corporate violators appears to be her regulatory style."

The PEER survey, the only survey conducted of state environmental professionals, was sent to all DEP employees. and found:

* Nearly two out of three employees report instances where "DEP inaction or lack of enforcement has caused environmental damage."

* More than three out of four employees say that the "level of DEP's environmental enforcement has decreased in the past three years."

*Nearly three out of four employees believe that under Gov. Whitman, the "regulated community excessively influences DEP permitting, policy and enforcement decisions."

This PEER survey consisted of questions composed by DEP employees themselves. PEER mailed the survey to the work addresses of the more than 3,000 DEP employees. Approximately one in four agency employees (24 %) responded.

Many employees included essays further describing internal problems. According to one supervisor, "Trees are cut unlawfully, water is polluted, and wildlife is left unprotected." Special interest influence and political pressure were identified as major problems. For instance, an employee criticized DEP for being "corrupt and too political." An administrator accused the governor of "catering" to business interests, and claimed "environmental rules are changed to protect industry." Another employee commented that "Regulations are being written by industry...permits have 'no teeth' anymore (because) polluters get what they want."

DEP employees also reported obstruction of environmental law enforcement, masking of scientific data and hiding information from the public:

*More than half agree that "scientific evaluations are influenced by political considerations at DEP."

*One quarter of employees reported that they have received direct orders "to ignore an environmental rule or regulation" during the past three years.

*Sixty percent of employees fear "job-related retaliation for disclosing improper activity within DEP."

"Governor Whitman justifies the dramatic decline in pollution enforcement actions in New Jersey by saying that 'fines are down because pollution is down' but her own employees say that violators have been given a free pass and a license to continue polluting," Ruch added. "If past is prologue, Governor Whitman will pull the teeth from enforcement efforts at EPA and suppress the findings and recommendations of its professional staff."

NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Survey Results

Total Sent: 3142   Total Returned: 711    Response Rate: 23.5%

STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

1. "DEP has sufficient resources to protect public health and the environment."
Agree: 28%
Disagree: 66%
No Opinion: 6%

2. "Within the last three years, DEP inaction or lack of enforcement has caused environmental damage."
Agree: 62%
Disagree: 21%
No Opinion: 17%

3. " Policies enacted by DEP within the last three years will improve New Jersey's environment."
Agree: 24%
Disagree: 56%
No Opinion: 20%

DIRECTION OF DEP

4. "DEP's new mission statement is appropriate for the agency."
Agree: 31%
Disagree: 40%
No Opinion: 29%

5. "The primary 'customer/clients' of DEP should be the state's natural resources and public health rather than the regulated community."
Agree: 73%
Disagree: 17%
No Opinion: 10%

6. "The regulated community excessively influences DEP permitting, policy, and enforcement decisions."
Agree: 68%
Disagree: 19%
No Opinion: 13%

7: "Privatization projects within DEP have been abused for corporate advantage."
Agree: 54%
Disagree: 14%
No Opinion: 32%

8. "The level of DEP's environmental enforcement has decreased in the past three years."
Agree: 76%
Disagree: 15%
No Opinion: 9%

SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY

9. "DEP relies upon the best scientific data in making permitting, policy and enforcement decisions."
Agree: 31%
Disagree: 46%
No Opinion: 23%

10. "I am encouraged to consult with outside experts at universities and other agencies during the course of my work."
Agree: 36%
Disagree: 35%
No Opinion: 29%

11. "Scientific evaluations are influenced by political considerations at DEP."
Agree: 59%
Disagree: 15%
No Opinion: 26%

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE

12. "I am discouraged from discussing management decisions with members of the public."
Agree: 46%
Disagree: 30%
No Opinion: 24%

13. "I fear job-related retaliation for publicly disclosing improper activity within DEP."
Agree: 59%
Disagree: 21%
No Opinion: 20%

14. "In the past three years, I have been directed to ignore an environmental rule or regulation."
Agree: 25%
Disagree: 52%
No Opinion: 23%

MORALE & LEADERSHIP

15. "The leadership of DEP is committed to upholding environmental laws and regulations."
Agree: 32%
Disagree: 48%
No Opinion: 20%

16. "The leadership of DEP places environmental health above the interests of the regulated business community."
Agree: 21%
Disagree: 63%
No Opinion: 16%

17. "Morale within DEP is good."
Agree: 8%
Disagree: 86%
No Opinion: 6%

18: "Robert Shinn is doing a good job as DEP Commissioner."
Agree: 22%
Disagree: 49%
No Opinion: 29%

Read Comments from respondents to the PEER survey of New Jersey DEP employees