PRESS RELEASE

BUILDERS’ LOBBYIST TAPPED AS TOP STATE ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATOR

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Trenton – The lobbyist for the New Jersey Builders Association has been appointed as the Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Regulation for the state Department of Environmental Protection. In this new role Nancy Wittenberg will oversee critical water quality and land use related permits and approvals that directly affect her former developer clients, according to New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“This appointment shows that the revolving door of business lobbyists exerting undue influence on environmental regulation will be swinging briskly,” said New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe. “While professionally and academically qualified to fill the post of Assistant Commissioner, Ms. Wittenberg’s appointment is not in the public interest and sends the wrong message to the public and professional staff and scientists in the Department.”

Wittenberg, a former Director of Environmental Affairs, will oversee many of the rules that she lobbied against for her former development clients. During her political advocacy role as lobbyist for the New Jersey Builders Association for over a decade, Ms. Wittenberg repeatedly bashed environmental protections {See attached partial list of choice comments from Ms. Wittenberg}.

“Her extreme positions and statements as a lobbyist raise legitimate questions about her judgment and capacity to fairly and objectively administer environmental laws,” Wolfe added, noting that, as Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Regulation, Wittenberg will be a member of the DEP Management Team and influence Department-wide policy, budget, staffing, and enforcement decisions.

More directly, Wittenberg will oversee important DEP permits and approvals that she has severely criticized. These approvals have major impacts on developers, including:

  1. Pollution discharge permits for discharge to surface water or groundwater permits for dedicated onsite wastewater treatment systems (package plants, or COWS). Developers that can not obtain sewer capacity or connections use these systems;
  2. Discharge to groundwater permits for septic systems serving developments of more than 50 units;
  3. Treatment Works Approval (TWA) permits for developments to connect to sewer systems;
  4. TWA permits for sewer line extensions to new developments;
  5. Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program for loans and grants for wastewater and water supply systems that serve new developments;
  6. Sewage treatment plant pollution discharge permits that determine treatment capacity (flow) and re-rating (expansion). The availability of wastewater treatment capacity and ability to connect have huge impacts on development potential;
  7. Permits to implement the “TMDL” (Total Maximum Daily Limit of pollutants for waterbodies) for cleanup of polluted rivers and streams that do not meet standards. TMDLs have potential to limit the timing and extent of new development approvals;
  8. Beneficial reuse of wastewater permits to things like irrigation systems for golf courses and other developments; and
  9. Permits approving municipal stormwater control ordinances, which have large impacts on developers.

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Read “In Her own Words”—Extreme Statements by Nancy Wittenberg

See Commissioner Jackson’s appointment message

New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability.