Bill Would Help Accelerate Clean-up of Contaminated Sites & Create New State & Local Revenue
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Bob Smith that would help accelerate the transformation of abandoned and contaminated properties into productive economic engines received approval today from both the Senate and Assembly environment committees after a lengthy joint hearing.
Bill S1897, which is modeled after a highly successful program in Massachusetts, would create a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSP) program within the Department of Environmental Protection, providing (re)developers with a more efficient means to remediate sites that pose a hazard to public health.
“This bill will essentially take a scissor to all the red tape that has halted the remediation of over 20,000 contaminated sites throughout New Jersey,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset, Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee. “First and foremost, it will be a victory for public health if we can address the environmental concerns on these properties more quickly and efficiently. For towns struggling with declines in revenue, it will also provide a tremendous source for new ratables if we can turn these properties back into productive use.”
The legislation would establish a new 13-member licensing board in, but not of, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) empowered to approve Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) that would work on site remediation cases. Currently, a person or company that is responsible for cleaning up a contaminated site hires a consultant to manage their cleanup, but that consultant must submit documents to DEP during every phase of the process. Progress on the cleanup typically ceases until the documents are approved by a DEP case manager, which can take months until a review even begins.
The Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board would have the authority to approve or deny applications for licensing site remediation professionals, to establish professional standards and continuing education requirements; and to investigate complaints, impose discipline, revoke and suspend licenses.
The bill includes a number of safeguards to protect the public’s interest and ensure the integrity of projects. Chief among these measures is a tightening of DEP guidelines and regulations for sensitive cases when the development of the site is planned for a school, child care facility or residential housing. Additionally, if the person who is responsible for the cleanup has a history of recalcitrance, the legislation requires the DEP to maintain direct oversight of the cleanup. If the site is heavily contaminated, the legislation permits DEP to take over direct oversight. If the site starts out under an LSRP and then they do not meet mandatory timeframes for the cleanup, DEP would assume direct oversight of the project.
“Given the state’s fiscal crisis it’s simply not feasible to think about hiring more DEP staff to handle the ever-growing caseloads,” said Sen. Smith. “This bill will provide a massive overhaul of the site remediation process without posing a financial burden on the state. It’s a win for our environment and a win for our economy.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate and Assembly for final approval.
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