When we think of water quality in New Jersey, we usually focus on clean drinking water for residents of the state. But clean water is also the fuel that drives important industries in the state like the production of M&M chocolates and Manischewitz matzo.
Those two enterprises, along with many others, rely on clean water from the New Jersey Highlands. This area of 860,000 acres provides clean water for most of the northern part of the state, and even supports some of the needs as far south as Gloucester County.
Overall management of the New Jersey Highlands falls under the purview of the fifteen member Highlands Council. Ever since he was sworn in, Governor Christie has been conducting a one-man holy war against the Highlands, by firing the Council’s pro-environment executive director and appointing members who place more development above the protection of the state’s environmental treasures.
Today, the New Jersey Sierra Club released its annual Highlands Report Card – providing grades not only for the governor, but for several other people and entities.
Not surprisingly, the Governor received a grade of F. The Sierra Club points out that since the legislature will not repeal the Highlands Act, the Governor is doing everything in his power to eviscerate it, including cutting funding, weakening environmental protections, and appointing his anti-environment cronies to the Council.
But with one exception, all of the other grades were well below average, including the state legislature (F for the Senate, D+ for the Assembly). In a teleconference today, NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel decried the legislature for failing to stand up the governor, and called out Senate President Sweeney for failure to post a resolution (SCR-66) that would have reversed some of the more deleterious actions by the DEP that violated legislative intent with regard to flood hazard rules.
The bottom line is that with 17 months left in the Christie reign, and with a legislature that is unable or unwilling to provide the proper checks and balances to protect the environment, unless there’s a groundswell of support to protect the Highlands, the environmental legacy we leave our children will not be as pristine and useful as the one we inherited. And the matzo at my seder table will taste even worse.