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30.7.04

NJ DEP vs. PA DEP

Earlier this week, I went to a workshop about the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's brownfields cleanup program. It seems NJDEP has just recently realized that involving the community in cleanups is important. The big issue on most attendees' minds was a recently passed law setting a 45-day deadline for approval of some redevlopment projects. Citizens were concerned (with good reason) that such a tight timeframe would hinder the public's ability to have meaningful input, since communities are slower to organize than developers. The career DEP employees seemed to share the citizens' concerns. The best spin they could put on it was that it was unclear how the bill would translate into implementation, and they'd do their best not to let it cramp the community participation initiative. Then we heard from Bradley Campbell, the political appointee who heads the DEP (he praised "this governor" often enough to show where his loyalties lay). He claimed that the fast-track permitting would benefit anti-development interests, because it's easier to say no right away than to say no after the process has dragged out and developers have invested so much in it. It's an interesting hypothesis, though I'm skeptical. And today I discovered that the Pennsylvania DEP doesn't agree:

[Army for a Clean Environment leader Dante] Picciano supported Weinrich's comments by reading from the minutes of an Oct. 23, 2003 meeting of the Mining and Reclamation Environmental Board of the DEP, where one official allegedly said a network of groups could pose a problem for pro-coal ash groups.

"The more time DEP takes to issue a permit, the more time Dante's Army has to network with more environmental groups," Picciano quoted from the minutes.

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