In response to the Department of Environmental Protection issuing a fine against the Division of Fish & Wildlife, Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano will introduce legislation that will prohibit state agencies from imposing civil penalties on other state agencies or bureaus.
In response to the DEP issuing a fine against the Division of Fish & Wildlife, District 10 lawmakers will introduce legislation that will prohibit state agencies from imposing civil penalties on other state agencies or bureaus. (©iStock)
“In light of the conflict that has unfolded between the DEP and one of its own divisions, we must take the extraordinary step of introducing legislation to restore some common sense to New Jersey’s regulatory policies,” Senator Holzapfel said. “No state agency should be able to fine another state agency much less a division of one. New Jersey taxpayers have had enough of these legal loopholes that only serve to expand an already bloated government bureaucracy.”
According to the DEP, its own bureau—the Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Land Management—violated state law by illegally clearing protected forest wetlands during a wildlife management project in Glassboro. The Bureau of Land Management was fined $266,000 for “unauthorized” forest clearing.
During the project, which took place in February, 2.79 acres of freshwater wetlands were illegally destroyed, including thousands of trees. The project also cleared an additional 12 acres of protected wetlands transition area.
The legislation sponsored by the District 10 lawmakers would prohibit state agencies from assessing, imposing, or enforcing civil penalties on state agencies, or a division, board, bureau, or office of an agency. There is no such prohibition under current law.
“It’s bizarre that we even have to introduce a bill for what should be common sense,” Assemblyman McGuckin added. “After the DEP issued that fine to itself, no one even knew how it would be paid or where the money would go. It was a complete waste of time and taxpayer resources.”
“The DEP case is a perfect example of something that would only happen in New Jersey,” Assemblyman Catalano said. “Instead of spending weeks trying to figure out how to pay a fine to itself, the obvious thing to do would be to fix the mess that was made by the Bureau of Land Management. Thankfully, this legislation will allow state agencies to better focus on their priorities.”
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