Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) stood before the shuttered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Laboratory in Edison, New Jersey, calling for an end to the reckless Republican government shutdown that has left all 100 employees of the lab furloughed. The government shutdown has halted or slowed work on a variety of activities critical to the protection of human health, as well as New Jersey's environment such as the cleanup of Superfund sites. The EPA Region 2 Lab provides important environmental protection services to New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.
Important work that protects the safety and health of New Jerseyans at Superfund sites along New Jersey's Lower Passaic River, in Pohatcong and along the Raritan Bay have stopped as a result of the Republican shutdown. Superfund sites contain toxic contaminants that have been detected in drinking water wells, creeks, rivers, backyards, playgrounds and streets. In some of the worst cases, the contamination cleaned up at Superfund sites has been known to cause health problems such as cardiac illness, infertility, low birth weight, birth defects, leukemia and respiratory difficulties.
The cleanup and restoration of Superfund sites creates jobs and results in rehabilitated properties that are often used for commerce and real estate redevelopment. In 2011, cleanup of Superfund sites created 2,300 jobs in New Jersey, alone.
"It is now day 14 of the reckless Republican government shutdown that was orchestrated by extreme factions of the GOP to drive their agenda and drive us all into a national crisis. Shutting down the government hurts our economy and threatens middle-class jobs as shown right here at the Edison EPA Lab, where 100 furloughed workers have been forced to stop their work on New Jersey's Superfund sites, among other critical environmental programs," said Pallone, who has been a leader in the fight to cleanup Superfund sites throughout the nation.
Pallone also cited the cancelation of an important safety inspection at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant as a result of the shutdown. The drill, which has been suspended indefinitely, would have included representatives from EPA, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other federal agencies to test procedures and equipment at the plant to ensure proper safety regulations are being followed.
"I'm outraged that the GOP shutdown is putting the health and safety of New Jerseyans at risk. This is no way to run the government," added Pallone.
Pallone has been outspoken in his criticism of House Republicans for forcing the nearly two week long closure of the federal government, which has resulted in the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal employees, causing a potentially devastating blow to the already struggling U.S. economy.
Pallone was joined by Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.
"The polluters in this country have gotten what they wanted. They have shutdown the EPA. Since they can't repeal our environmental laws they are doing it by shutting down the government and the EPA. The shutdown is having drastic consequences to our environment in New Jersey. It will lead to more air and water polluting and toxins getting out into our environment. We are here at the EPA lab in Edison not only because it has been shuttered, but because the award winning research that normally happens here has now stopped. This lab not only does important scientific research around toxic pollution and the environment its work actually helps to save lives by scientifically setting environmental standards. New Jersey has more Superfund sites than other state. Now with the shutdown these sites are not getting cleaned up leading to more pollution getting into our environment and communities. Without EPA inspectors and enforcement personal this is going to be like removing the cop on patrol. This will lead to more violations, toxic spills and pollution putting our environment and our health at risk," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.