Baroni gains environmental endorsement

Federation cites assemblyman's opposition to Route 92 project

Trenton Times, Friday, October 05, 2007

SOUTH BRUNSWICK -- Standing near the proposed site of one of the most controversial road projects in state history, Assemblyman and Republican state Senate candidate Bill Baroni received an endorsement from the environmental federation that has teamed with him to fight the highway plan.

The New Jersey Environmental Federation, a coalition of more than 100 environmental groups with more than 70,000 members statewide, announced its support of Baroni yesterday, citing a strong environmental record that includes sponsoring a bill that would quash the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's ability to construct the controversial Route 92.

"Every candidate says they support the environment," said Dave Pringle, NJEF campaign director. "It's our job to separate the wheat from the chaff. In this race, (one of the) most watched (in the state), the choice is clear."

Baroni is being opposed by Democrat Seema Singh for the 14th District Senate seat.

At a press conference yesterday, Baroni touted his environmental record, including support for emissions reduction planning under the Global Warming Response Act and drinking water preservation via the Highlands Protection Act.

Pringle noted that Baroni's support reached across party lines, as he stood with Democrats on environmentally sound legislation while opposing the legislative majority on the development-friendly "Fast Track" law.

In an interview Thursday, Singh pointed to time spent "fighting polluters and utility companies" as a ratepayer advocate when asked about her environmental record.

"We know that New Jersey has a rich environmental landscape which definitely has to be preserved and protected," she added. "This is not negotiable."

Both Baroni and Singh also urged voters to approve a ballot question that would secure a yearlong extension of funding for the Garden State Preservation Trust.

Funding for the trust, which is used to purchase and maintain open space, farmland and historic sites, is up for renewal before the Legislature can identify a more permanent source at its next session.

Critics have called the bill to deauthorize the Route 92 project unnecessary because the nearly $400 million earmarked for Route 92 has been transferred to the Turnpike Authority's widening project, removing any financial support for the construction.

But a "formal" deauthorization of the proposal for the highway is critical, according to Pringle, because of constant changes in state transportation policy.

"The final nail in the Route 92 coffin hasn't been set, and it needs to be," he added.