McGreevey on the Environment

McGreevey on the Environment

McGreevey on the Environment

While there are some aspects of the environment in New Jersey that exist regardless of who holds the State's highest office, such as New Jersey's status as the most densely populated state in the U.S., each new governor has the ability to sculpt an environmental policy different from that of the prior administration. With the recent inauguration of Jim McGreevey as the State's 51st Governor, a synopsis of McGreevey's campaign statements on environmental issues provides an interesting insight on what may be in store under the new administration.

From McGreevey for Governor 2001, Inc. press releases, two issues took the lead in terms of campaign attention: Sprawl and Water Quality. Closely associated issues in McGreevey's bid for Governor were the State Plan and Open Space. Air Quality, Beach Replenishment, and Dredging were also addressed by McGreevey.

Sprawl. Citing lack of vision and leadership in Trenton as a factor in the rampant sprawl that has devoured land in recent years, Jim McGreevey plans to move on both state and local levels. He has advocated forming a Sprawl Policy Council to coordinate compliance with the State Plan, creating university-based help centers to assist municipalities, and improving public transit. On the local level, McGreevey wants to give towns more assistance and more power to achieve smart growth. For instance, he has proposed establishing a statewide Transfer of Development Rights program, wherein municipalities channel growth by allowing developers to buy development rights on preserved areas of the town. He also has endorsed intermunicipal boards to give neighboring townships a say in a town's planning.

Water Quality. Addressing environmental as well as public health concerns, McGreevey announced during his campaign a three-point plan to improve water quality. First, he would seek to make stricter standards, including point source and non-point source discharge limits. Second, he would increase enforcement. His proposals include boosting the enforcement section of the Attorney General's Office and reviewing actions of the Office of Mediation and Dispute Resolution to ensure polluters are held accountable. Third, McGreevey would seek better planning for wastewater (including financial incentives to push innovative solutions), river restoration, and long-term protection of water sources.

State Plan. The State Development and Redevelopment Plan ("State Plan") is designed to concentrate building in areas well suited for growth and is thus closely tied to Sprawl. In his campaign, McGreevey said he sought to encourage use of the State Plan. He suggested increasing incentives to redevelop urban areas by returning State sales tax to those municipalities for re-investment in such items as infrastructure, parks, or housing. He supported decreasing the incentive to build in environmentally sensitive areas by limiting infrastructure funding. McGreevey also proposed that the existing planning process could be improved by ensuring that county plans are consistent with the State Plan and by reducing towns' reliance on property tax (thus reducing the drive for tax ratables).

Open Space. McGreevey has stated his intent to refine the Open Space Preservation Program to further his objectives on Sprawl and Water Quality. Specifically, he said that he wants more Open Space obtained in the urban and suburban areas, where the majority of the state's residents live. Jim McGreevey also supports prioritizing acquisition of Open Space around water reservoirs and environmentally-sensitive watershed lands. Emphasizing his desire to maximize the goals of the Open Space program, rather than simply to add to acreage totals, McGreevey also proposed a more rigorous review of properties being considered for acquisition.

Air. McGreevey voiced opposition to President George W. Bush's March 2001 decision not to implement mandatory reductions for carbon dioxide. Citing New Jersey's population density and vulnerability to out-of-state emissions (from midwestern power plants, for example), McGreevey argued that such a decision not only runs counter to the State's goal of cleaner air, but also places New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage. Elsewhere in the campaign, McGreevey supported stricter auto emissions rules and the sale of cleaner-burning new autos.

Beach Replenishment. Calling New Jersey's beaches a "national resource," McGreevey supports beach replenishment programs. He has said that replenishment projects provide protection against floods and fuel the significant economic activity generated at the Shore.

Dredging the Hudson River. In July, Jim McGreevey called upon EPA Administrator Christine Whitman to move ahead with a plan to dredge the Hudson River of PCB-contaminated sediments. Citing research that indicated the PCBs have not remained in localized hot spots, McGreevey expressed concern for the commercial fishing and recreation that takes place in New Jersey waters downstream of the contamination, as well as for the health of State residents. Whitman announced the agency's decision to move forward in August 2001.