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NJ Sierra Club Director Criticizes DEP’s Handling of Landfills, Favors Buono Over Christie

6-20-13

The Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury is just days away from a deadline that could lead to its immediate shutdown. Legislators are considering bills that would require the DEP to close the facility down and clean it up. New Jersey Sierra Club Chapter Director Jeff Tittel told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he’s encouraged by the action taken but isn’t happy with how the DEP has handled landfills. He also said gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono is a better friend to the environment than Gov. Chris Christie.

Requiring the DEP to close down the Fenimore Landfill and clean it up is an important step forward, according to Tittel.

“What people don’t realize is that New Jersey actually allows someone to bring in more garbage to close down a landfill. It’s sort of counter intuitive, but we actually let them bring in things to make money in order to close it down. And so it’s happened in Fenimore. They brought in tons and tons of construction debris and other things that have given off noxious odors and gases that have affected people’s health and have been a real nuisance and problem. So hopefully after these bills pass and the governor signs them, we’ll get in there and clean it up the right way and cap it and protect that neighborhood.”

Tittel said he’s uncomfortable with the way the DEP is handling the situation because “it’s the DEP’s rules that have allowed these landfills to become dumps again and so that’s why we need the legislation.”

Some have said the legislation could have moved more quickly if not for Senate President Steve Sweeney, but Tittel said a slight delay won’t make much of a difference. “As long as the bill gets done, even if it’s maybe a week or so later, it doesn’t really matter. We just need to get it done and help the people in Roxbury,” he said.

Tittel has been an outspoken supporter of gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono and said Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t been a friend to the environment. “He vetoed the fracking waste ban bill that now allows fracking haulers to come into New Jersey and dump fracking waste and that is a real concern because of the impact of pollution,” Tittel said. “I think the areas on holding back on clean energy and vetoing the fracking waste ban bill has put New Jersey unfortunately in a position where we could get outside pollution being dumped in our state and we already have enough pollution on our own.”

Although Christie has not allowed fracking in New Jersey, Tittel said, “We had a bill that would ban fracking permanently. He made it a one-year moratorium and that moratorium has run out so fracking could happen here in New Jersey.”

When asked about how he believes Buono’s gubernatorial campaign is going, Tittel said he believes she has raised important issues, but it can be difficult to gain traction when up against “a governor who’s a media star.”

While some environmentalists might try to build a better relationship with Christie since he has more influence, Tittel said that’s not a possibility since the governor has become more involved in national politics.

“I think a lot of it’s being driven by the national Republican Party that denies climate change, that supports drilling off of the Atlantic, that has taken a very anti-environmental position,” Tittel said. “So unfortunately I think national politics is also pushing the governor in a certain direction where he may not have been early on.”