New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law on Thursday legislation that critics say sells out the state's water supply and democratic process for private profits.
The Water Infrastructure Protection Act, which purportedly aims to address aging infrastructure , allows for fast-tracking of sales of municipal water systems to private entities.
Among the sponsors of the measure, which passed the state legislature in December, was Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), who stated Thursday: "We recognize that there are times when private entities might be most capable of operating, maintaining and upgrading drinking water and sanitary wastewater systems,” and keeps "the public’s ability to be part of the process."
Quite the opposite, according to the law's critics.
"Governor Christie has sided with private water companies over our water supply," stated Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "This law will raise rates, hurt consumers and businesses."
"Residents will not be able to decide the fate of their water supply unless the petition to sell or lease is signed by 15% of voters in the area. This is undemocratic, takes away public oversight and input, and allows deregulation of our water protection and rates. Governor Christie has now allowed for private water companies to reap massive amount of profit at the expense of residents and their water supply," Tittel said.
Tittel added that water privatization's track record shows it's a no-win situation for the public.
"Privatization is one of the single biggest threats to clean water and public health. Privatization often leads to higher rates for services and worsen water quality. Studies have shown that when public services are privatized, corporate profits replace meeting the needs of consumers and the environment," he said.
"Rate payers and tax payers have spent billions of dollars to build these water systems. Now companies are going to take over our public water supply for profits rather than work for the public they are supposed to serve. We will end up seeing higher costs for the services, problems at facilities, and tax payers paying the bill," he added.