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Sweeney, Burzichelli And Fisher Bill To Prevent Ground Contamination Clears Senate Committee

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Steve Sweeney and Assemblymen John J. Burzichelli and Douglass H. Fisher that would fund the removal and replacement of petroleum underground storage containers with above ground tanks, thereby helping to prevent soil and groundwater contamination was unanimously approved today by the Senate Environment Committee.

“This bill is designed to allow homeowners and business owners to take preventative measures to help stop ground contamination before it begins,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, who also serves as Vice Chair of the Environment panel. “For the most part, these tanks are not regulated by the State, and for that reason, the only way to know which ones are leaking is to dig them up. The State should not wait until these tanks start leaking – leaving an even larger, more dangerous and more expensive situation on its hands. Immediate action is necessary to help protect the health and safety of the people of New Jersey.”

“Soil and groundwater contamination pose a serious threat to public health and to the environment,” said Assemblyman Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “The thought of petroleum underground storage tanks leaking warrants immediate action. It makes sense to tackle possible ground contamination as soon as possible, considering the lasting effects it could have on New Jersey’s families and their environment.”

“New Jersey cannot afford to move slowly on soil and groundwater contamination,” said Assemblyman Fisher, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. ” The effects of ground contamination can last for generations. It is vital that we do everything in our power to protect our soil from becoming polluted.”

The bill, S-482, would revise current law governing the use of money in the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Remediation, Upgrade and Closure Fund to allow for the authorization of grants of up to $1,200 for the closure of non-leaking heating oil tanks and appropriate grants of up to $3,000 for the closure and repair of non-leaking tanks. Tank owners would be responsible to make up the difference in funds, not covered by State grants. The bill would also increase the current cap for tank owners and operators in the State’s Highlands region from $2 million to $3 million.

The bill would expand the eligibility criteria for the awarding of hardship grants for the replacement of commercial and residential tanks. Under the bill, the taxable income cap for owners and operators seeking to qualify for a hardship grant would be raised from $200,000 to $250,000.

“This is about helping to prevent future environmental disasters,” said Senator Sweeney. “We have the means to remove and replace these tanks, and we should do so now, while there is no immediate threat to the public.”

This measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.