Editor’s note: The opinions reflected below are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.
New Jersey’s environment was a big winner on Nov. 7, as voters approved a measure to prevent lawmakers from diverting funds earmarked for cleanups of polluted sites.
Ballot Question 2, which was passed by nearly 69 percent of voters, amends the New Jersey Constitution to make sure the state Legislature and future governors use pollution settlement funds only for their intended purposes.
Two-to-one is a huge margin, and it tells us that people understand that money from Natural Resources Damages should be spent only for that purpose. It shows that the environment is very important in the minds of the people of New Jersey.
According to the ballot question, any funds paid by a polluter “would have to be used to repair, restore, replace, or preserve the State’s natural resources. The moneys may also be used to pay legal or other costs incurred by the state in pursuing its claims.”
The question was placed on the ballot in response to Gov. Chris Christie’s plans to divert most revenues from large pollution settlements to the general state budget instead of using them specifically for environmental cleanups.
Of an estimated $580 million received by the state from multiple large pollution cases, including one against Exxon Mobil, Christie proposed to spend only $103 million for restoration of contaminated sites.
Area residents may be interested to know that the constitutional amendment will affect a local case in which rock dust sludge from a concrete quarry in Glen Gardner was pumped into the Spruce Run creek in August, killing fish, amphibians and other aquatic life and damaging wildlife habitat.
The polluters will be fined. And because of the passage of the Ballot Question 2, Natural Resource Damages money will be used locally – in our watershed – for stream restoration and land preservation.
This is great news for the future health of New Jersey’s water supplies. It’s also welcome news for Raritan Headwaters, which has been working since 1959 to make sure that residents have access to safe, clean water that is swimmable, fishable and, above all, drinkable.
Thank you to New Jersey voters for putting our environment first!
Policy Director, Raritan Headwaters