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DEP rule aims to waive certain requirements

The state Department of Environmental Protection last week proposed a rule that would allow it to waive strict compliance with regulations in certain limited circumstances, provided such a waiver does not weaken environmental or public health protections.

“One size doesn’t always fit all in government,” said Bob Martin, commissioner. “This offers a practical flexibility in allowing us to deal with issues.”

The DEP said it would consider a waiver application only if the requirement to be waived conflicts with another department, state or agency rule; strict application creates undue hardship; the waiver generates a net environmental benefit; or there is a public emergency.

Environmentalists and some legislators oppose the waiver proposal. “This rule is so vague and so loose that the DEP commissioner can pretty much do whatever he wants and weaken any environmental protection to take care of special interests,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club, in Trenton.

Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-South Orange), meanwhile, said “creating a loophole that will allow developers to threaten drinking water supplies opens the door for economic and environmental disaster.”

A public hearing on the proposed rule is scheduled for April 14 in Trenton.

– Evelyn Lee

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