Gov. Rendell yesterday affirmed his support for dredging the Delaware River ship channel and again promised that Pennsylvania would dispose of the muck from the river bottom.
Rendell said he was concerned about a report in Monday's Inquirer that said an agreement between New Jersey and Pennsylvania had fallen apart and that the dredge material would now be dumped in New Jersey.
"A lot of people in New Jersey are scared," Rendell said at a Center City news conference. "They need not be scared. Pennsylvania intends to honor its commitment."
In a 2007 agreement that ended a longstanding dispute with New Jersey officials who sought to block the project, Rendell promised to accept whatever dredge material New Jersey and Delaware didn't want.
Rendell said yesterday it was always understood the material would initially go to sites in New Jersey and Delaware owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing the project.
Corps spokesman Ed Voigt said the only practical way to dredge the river is to deposit the spoils at their sites adjacent to the river until it can be dried out and, if desired, moved someplace else.
Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said Rendell is rewriting history.
"Everybody's understanding of that agreement, even those of us who opposed the project, was that the spoils would go directly from the Delaware River to Pennsylvania," van Rossum said.
Riverkeeper is one of five environmental groups, along with the states of New Jersey and Delaware, that have sued in federal court to block the $300 million dredging project on environmental grounds.
New Jersey's posture toward the project seems to have evolved. Gov. Jon Corzine made the agreement with Rendell in 2007, but in 2008 New Jersey officials began raising a series of environmental concerns.
Last month, the state sued the Army Corps to block the project, and Corzine issued a statement saying, "I cannot allow the people of South Jersey to have these dredge spoils dumped on them."
Rendell said yesterday the objections to the project were really about protecting the port in northern New Jersey from competition.
"The state of New Jersey is fighting it because they do not want the port of Philadelphia to be as deep as the port of New York," Rendell said. "It's a simple as that."
Asked for comment yesterday, Corzine spokesman Robert Corrales wrote in an e-mail, "Governor Corzine has been personally assured by Governor Rendell that Pennsylvania will fully and completely live up to the agreement to accept all of the dredge spoils other than those that New Jersey and Delaware want for their own port construction or similar uses."
A hearing was held yesterday in Delaware on the attempts to block the project. U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson is not expected to decide for at least two weeks whether to grant an injunction halting the dredging.