Budget Bill That Targets Environmental Programs Goes to Gov’s Desk
Today, S20 (Sarlo/Cunningham)/A3 (Pintor Marin/Burzichelli) was passed by both the Senate and Assembly. The bill amends and supplements FY20 appropriations act to effectuate extension of fiscal year through September 30, 2020. The bill takes around $82 million from the Department of Environmental Protection, as well as another $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund for NJ Transit. It also takes $58.3 million from federal funds for the Department of Environmental Protection. It passed the Senate with a vote of 21-17 and the Assembly with a vote of 46-27-0. It now goes to the governor’s desk.
“We have a financial crisis, and they’re going to be raiding and grabbing funds from the environment. This is going to lead to cuts in very critical environmental programs. We are concerned because this is a time when we need DEP to make sure our air is clean and water is pure. They also need to have the staff to do permitting as the economy reopens, but it may not be there. These cuts will have devastating impacts on DEP and environmental protection. They are taking $82 million directly from DEP programs and capital as well as $58 million from federal funds that are supposed to go to DEP. This is on top of the nearly $310 million that was already taken for environmental programs,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We believe that taking this money from DEP and other environmental programs could be dangerous at a time when air pollution has been linked to coronavirus risk.”
The bill takes $19.9 million from the Department of Environmental Protection’s CBT dedicated funds. This includes $3.9 million from Environmental Management and Preservation CBT Dedication and $15.9 million from Environmental Management and Preservation CBT Dedication, which contains $6.6 million for Hazardous Substance Discharge Remediation Loans & Grants, Hazardous Substance Remediation, and Private Underground Storage Tank Remediation. New Jersey voters have approved these funds to be dedicated to these purposes from the Corporate Business Tax.
“They are grabbing money that is constitutionally dedicated for watershed protection and cleaning up toxic sites. This money was constitutionally dedicated to prevent these kinds of raids. This is the first time that the state has tried to take CBT dedicated funds. This raises questions on how it is possible to take that money when it is dedicated for these programs like watershed monitoring and hazardous remediation. These are important programs that create jobs and protect our environment and public health,” said Jeff Tittel. “We know that New Jersey is facing serious budget problems, but we don’t understand how it is possible to redirect constitutionally dedicated funds.”
The bill takes a total of $82,472,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection. This includes:
$24.4 million from Natural Resource Management (including Forest Resource Management, Parks Management, and Natural Resources Engineering)
$12 million from Science and Technical Programs (including Water Supply, Water Monitoring and Resource Management, Land Use Regulation and Management, and Environmental Policy and Planning)
$21.5 million from Site Remediation and Waste Management (including Constitutionally Dedicated funds for Hazardous Substance Discharge Remediation Loans & Grants, Private Underground Storage Tank Remediation, and Hazardous Substance Discharge Remediation)
$9.9 million from Environmental Regulation (including Air Pollution Control, Water Pollution Control, and Radiation Protection)
$8.4 million from Environmental Planning and Administration
$6.2 million from Compliance and Enforcement (including Air Pollution Control, Water Pollution Control, Land Use Regulation and Management, and Solid and Hazardous Waste Management)
“DEP has been cut to the bone in the past, and now they are cutting through the bone. Taking this money away will lead to potential furloughs and layoffs. This means that there won’t be people to make sure that toxic sites get cleaned up, our parks stay open, and our air is clean and water is pure. DEP needs more funding so that we have enough people to do the many jobs of the agency. Instead, they’re taking another $82 million directly from DEP programs and capital, plus raiding $58 million of federal funding for DEP,” said Tittel. “Fifteen years ago, the overall DEP budget was $516 million. Despite inflation and rising salaries we were down to $342 million, and with these raids DEP is at $204 million.”
In addition, the bill takes $58.3 million from the Department of Environmental Protection federal funds. This includes:
$20.6 million from Natural Resource Management (including Forest Resource Management, Parks Management, and Natural Resources Engineering)
$11.4 million from Science and Technical Programs (including Water Supply, Water Monitoring and Resource Management, Land Use Regulation and Management, and Environmental Policy and Planning)
$4.6 million from Site Remediation and Waste Management (including Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, Publicly-Funded Site Remediation and Response, and Remediation Management)
$19.6 million from Environmental Regulation (including Air Pollution Control, Public Wastewater Facilities, and Water Monitoring and Planning)
$2 million from Compliance and Enforcement (including Air Pollution Control, Pesticide Control, Water Pollution Control, Land Use Regulation and Management, and Solid and Hazardous Waste Management)
“They are taking federal funds away from DEP that are supposed to go to enforcement and compliance on clean air, pesticides, water, solid waste management, and water monitoring. If you cut enforcement, there will be more violations and pollution. Cutting monitoring will lead to more pollution and will risk public health and safety. People could end up drinking sewage or living near unregulated incinerators. We get this money to carry out federal programs at a state level, so the question becomes how will we fulfill those programs if the money is taken,” said Jeff Tittel. “We are concerned that taking $58 million of federal funds will mean that New Jersey is in violation of federal agreements because we won’t have any way to follow the federal programs.”
DEP staff is already at an all-time low. The Environmental Integrity Project found that New Jersey is 10th in the nation for environmental funding cuts, with a 20% cut in DEP staff from 2008 to 2018. The agency went from 4,400 staff members in the mid-1990’s to 2,321 in 2008. Now we are down to 1,858.
“State parks are falling apart, but they are raiding $9.6 million from the parks budget. Even though the state reopened state parks during the pandemic, they don’t have the resources necessary to keep all facilities clean and open. Our park system has been significantly underfunded for years, and DEP staff levels have dropped by 57% since the mid-1990s,” said Tittel. “Extending the FY2020 budget as well as taking more funds could lead to furloughs and potentially even layoffs. This could create a situation where we don’t have enough people to write permits for businesses as they reopen, oversee water pollution regulation and enforcement, or keep our parks and beaches open.”
They are taking funds for air and water pollution regulation and enforcement. A recent Harvard study analyzed 3,080 counties in the United States and found a link between coronavirus risk and air pollution exposure. We should be reducing our air pollution instead of cutting regulation and enforcement. Governor Murphy’s NJ Interim Budget Report proposed eliminating the $80 million lead infrastructure program in DEP.
“Taking money for air pollution regulation and enforcement will have significant impacts on the environment and public health. Air pollution has been linked to coronavirus risk, so we should be increasing enforcement and regulation instead of raiding it,” said Jeff Tittel. “They are also taking funds for dealing with water pollution problems. This will mean more algae blooms in our lakes and beach closings. Last year, over 50 of our lakes and reservoirs were closed or under advisory for harmful algal blooms. This year could be worse. The Governor has also already taken $80 million away from DEP for dealing with lead. Taking money away from replacing lead pipes means less jobs while our communities continue to live with unsafe drinking water.”
The new bill also raids an additional $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund for NJ Transit. This brings the total amount raided from the Clean Energy Fund for NJ Transit for FY2020 to $102 million. The proposed FY2021 budget for New Jersey has already raided $113 million from the Clean Energy Fund.
“They are taking more money from the Clean Energy Fund at a time when it is needed most. Taking these funds means that we won’t be able to move forward with energy efficiency, which means families will be paying more for more air pollution. They are now taking an additional $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund. What’s worse is that they’re already planning to raid almost half of the fund next year too. These funds go toward saving families money while creating good jobs and reducing air pollution, especially in overburdened communities that are already hit hard by the pandemic. This is critically important, especially during the health and financial crises,” said Tittel. “Governor Murphy committed to stopping these raids, but they continue. About $1.8 billion has been taken from the Clean Energy Fund since 2010, making it the state’s piggy bank.”
The budget raids include $5.79 million from Natural Resources Engineering. This category includes shore protection engineering, flood control projects, and other projects that aim to protect, maintain, and establish sustainable natural resources.
“Our coast is under threat from sea-level rise and erosion. We’re close to slipping away. Taking $5.8 million for climate change and natural resource engineering means that we can’t plan for climate impacts or expand our shore protection or flood control projects. This means that we’re hurting ourselves in the long-term. New Jersey is one of the most vulnerable states to climate impacts and sea-level rise. We are already seeing climate impacts with streets going underwater during full moons. Fish are living in storm drains in LBI, and even on sunny days flooding is occurring at high tides,” said Jeff Tittel. “We need to be making New Jersey more resilient to climate impacts, and these budget cuts will not help.”
Overall, the bill takes $63,900,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection Direct State Services, $455,000 from Grants-in-Aid, $3,375,000 from State Aid, and $14,742,000 from Capital Construction.
“We are facing financially uncertain times, with some businesses still closed and rising unemployment. We understand the need to fill the gaps, but we cannot keep using environmental programs to fill those gaps. They are taking everything that isn’t nailed down and pulling millions of dollars from environmental programs in the process. This is short-sighted and will directly impact public health and the environment now and for future generations,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Governor Murphy needs to veto this bill so we can look at long-term fixes to make up for the budget shortfalls, like ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share, closing corporate loopholes, ending corporate subsidies, and using money from environmentally disruptive projects. When we cut environmental investments we are cutting investments in ourselves and our future.”