How DEP (yes, DEP) is eager to work with business community — and why both sides need to work together

Commissioner LaTourette on panel: Actions we take collectively will impact business community for many years to come

Shawn LaTourette loves to talk about his role as the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection and how it aligns with the business community.

And he loves to do it with humor.

LaTourette, speaking during a recent panel, “Let’s Get Real about Climate Change,” at Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi in Roseland, said there needs to be a better understanding of how the DEP is eager and willing to work with the business community.

“I think one of the misconceptions or failures of conventional wisdom is the notion that you have growth and development and economic progress or you have environmental protection — and never the two shall meet, because you absolutely have to sacrifice one for the other,” he starts, then finishes with sarcasm.

“That’s, of course, the way it works. Except, that’s not at all the way it works.”

LaTourette said part of that narrative comes from the differing view the DEP will have on an issue versus an individual business concern.

“Our job is to see the things that one business or one community doesn’t — to have a broader perspective on a whole watershed, a whole region, the entire state,” he said. “It’s not that any staff member at the DEP who is evaluating the project wants to stand in the way of that particular project, but the perspective that the agency has is bigger than your project.”

Dennis Toft, chair of environmental law at CSG Law, agreed. Speaking during the panel, Toft said he works with clients to see the bigger picture.

“We counsel clients as to how we can comply with rules,” he said. “Clients are always worried about (how) these rules are changing and things are evolving.

“Beyond that, it’s a question of: What do you want to build your project for? How long do you want it to last? Do you want it to be sustainable? No one wants to build a building that’s going to be underwater. People need to understand that. And we counsel them to understand that the rules are designed to protect them.”

There’s no question that business and government need to work together, as they already are intricately linked.

“Whether you’re an attorney (or) an environmental professional, there’s no area of our economy, no area of legal practice, that this issue does not touch,” laTourette said. “(Everyone needs) to understand what the climate realities are in the state of New Jersey, how they impact you and your businesses and your clients and how the actions that we all take, collectively, on this issue, throughout business, throughout government, will be a primary driving force for many years to come.”