Say Rule Change Proposed by NJDEP Would Bring Balance to Highlands Law
Senator Steven Oroho and Assemblyman Parker Space (both R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) expressed disappointment that the New Jersey Senate has provided final legislative approval to a resolution blocking septic density rule changes for the Highlands Region that have been proposed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
Sen. Steven Oroho and Asm. Parker Space expressed disappointment that the New Jersey Senate has provided final legislative approval to a resolution blocking proposed septic density rule changes for the Highlands Region. (Morris County Preservation Trust)
“The NJDEP has proposed reasonable revisions to septic density standards for the Highlands Region that would provide a measure of relief to residents who have been negatively impacted by the Highlands Act,” said Oroho. “This thoughtful proposal would stimulate much needed job creation and economic growth in the region in a manner consistent with the goals of the Highlands Act, while protecting clean water and carefully preserved open space. I’m disappointed that the Legislature has acted in a way that will perpetuate misguided policies that harm families living in the Highlands.”
The Senate approved the resolution, ACR-192/SCR-148, declaring the NJDEP’s proposed septic system density standards in the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act Rules inconsistent with legislative intent. This action follows the General Assembly’s approval of the resolution on December 19, 2016 in a 48-25-4 vote.
The adoption of the resolution is part of a process through which the Legislature can invalidate rules and regulations in whole or in part.
Assemblyman Parker Space pointed out that the proposed rule revisions by the NJDEP involving the nitrate data used over 19,000 data points as opposed to only 52 data points under the current rule, of which a mere 7 were taken from the Highlands preservation area.
“The DEP’s septic rule proposal is based on extensive data collection and analysis, unlike the previous model that was politically driven to stop even the most modest development in the Highlands Region,” said Space. “It’s nonsensical for the Legislature to ignore the DEP’s comprehensive, scientifically sound approach. Residents of the Highlands are again paying the price for Trenton’s political games.”
Space opposed ACR-192 when it passed the Assembly in December.
Oroho noted that current septic density standards in the Highlands Region are inconsistent with legislative intent.
The Highlands Act states: “The Legislature further finds and declares that the New Jersey Highlands provides a desirable quality of life and place where people live and work; that it is important to ensure the economic viability of communities throughout the New Jersey Highlands; and that residential, commercial, and industrial development, redevelopment, and economic growth in certain appropriate areas of the New Jersey Highlands are also in the best interests of all the citizens of the State, providing innumerable social, cultural, and economic benefits and opportunities.”
“Protecting the quality of life of Highlands residents, ensuring the economic viability of Highlands communities, and promoting economic growth in appropriate areas of the Highlands are clearly designated goals of the Highlands Act,” added Oroho. “The DEP rule that the Legislature voted to block would have directly supported each of those goals. Regretfully, with this vote, the Legislature is choosing political science over actual science.”
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