Trenton — Just days after the second major flood in seven months swept through the Delaware River, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection promised not to enforce new stormwater management rules designed to avoid and lessen flooding, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At almost the exact moment that Acting Governor Richard Codey ordered DEP to take steps to minimize flooding, DEP quietly agreed to put mandatory flood reduction rules on a slow track.
In the wake of massive flooding along the Delaware during the first week of April, Acting Governor Codey directed DEP to examine ways to prevent and reduce future flooding. Shortly thereafter, he sent a letter asking President Bush to declare a major disaster for the state and release nearly $60 million in federal aid to assist devastated riverfront communities.
Literally as the floodwaters receded from Trenton and just days after the Governor’s State of emergency was lifted, in an April 12, 2005 letter to the League of Municipalities, DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell acknowledged that “our consultations with the League persuaded us to delay implementation well past the original [March 2003] USEPA deadline.” Campbell made a commitment that DEP “will not take any enforcement action prior to August 1, 2005” but does not say when, if ever, the rules will be enforced.
“The left hand does not seem to know or care what the right hand is doing in Trenton,” commented New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP official, noting that this Campbell’s concession allows towns to drag their feet and developers to skirt more protective stormwater management requirements. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Brad Campbell is fiddling while Trenton floods.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published Phase II Stormwater Rules, as required by the Clean Water Act, on December 8, 1999. New Jersey adopted its version of those rules on January 5, 2004. The rules mandate that all 566 NJ municipalities apply for a DEP stormwater permit by March 3, 2004, to adopt local ordinances within one year, and to submit implementation progress reports to DEP by May 5, 2005. DEP has not published data on compliance with the May 2005 deadline.
In addition, Campbell’s April 12 letter pledging to not enforce stormwater regulations appears at variance with DEP’s own April 6, 2005 press release, issued immediately after the Delaware flood, announcing more than $3.6 million in grants to fund 11 projects designed to reduce stormwater and restore water quality throughout New Jersey. That funding was from last year’s budget but the current State budget zeroed out these municipal stormwater management grant funds.
“Unfortunately, the pattern in New Jersey DEP is management by press release,” Wolfe added. “Consistent enforcement of important environmental laws and coherent implementation of policies take a back seat in the search for the next headline.”
Read Brad Campbell’s April 11, 2005 letter promising to delay stormwater enforcement
See April 6 2005 press release “Codey Directs DEP to Examine Ways to Reduce Flooding”
Look at DEP’s April 6, 2005 press release announcing stormwater grants
View DEP stormwater
requirements (see MS4 permit matrix link to NJAC 7:8-4)
DEP adoption document for stormwater management rules, effective date 2/2/04
Compare a 2004 press release fromGov. McGreevey touting the importance of these stormwater rules