Vitale-Whelan Bill To Authorize Zero-Interest Loans To Local Government For Environmental Clean-Up Clears Budget Committee

Returning members of the State Senate are sworn in

Measure Would Ensure Available Capital for Brownfield Remediation

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Jim Whelan which would authorize the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to offer zero-interest loans to local governments to help pay for the cleanup of brownfield properties within their borders was unanimously approved yesterday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“At a time when municipalities are forced to do more with less money, we must maintain environmental clean up as a priority and not allow these projects to fall by the wayside,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “By offering zero-interest loans to assist in cleaning up abandoned and contaminated properties, we can help local governments to improve blighted areas in their communities and put them back to use for local residents.”

“Redevelopment is essential for the economic well-being of urban and industrial communities, but polluted sites and brownfield properties remain an obstacle to community improvements by attaching a stigma to neighborhoods and disincentivizing builders and developers from investing in projects on or near hazardous waste and brownfield sites,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “By providing the capital needed to remediate and eventually reuse the property, New Jersey can encourage further development that could reenergize communities.”

The bill, S-2278, would authorize the EDA to provide zero-interest loans to municipalities, counties or redevelopment entities for up to 25 percent of the total cost of a remedial action in a brownfield redevelopment site. The loans would have to be paid back in ten years, and priority status for EDA financial assistance would be given to sites in brownfield redevelopment areas that are municipally-owned and will be remediated with a public entity developer. The funds for the zero-interest loans would come from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, and would not require additional funding beyond the annual amount included in the fiscal year budget.

“This legislation would capitalize on an already existing loan program and maximize its benefit to the people of New Jersey,” Senator Whelan said. “By using existing funds in the Site Remediation Fund, we can ensure these sites no longer prove a health risk to surrounding residents, while remaining fiscally conscientious. Ultimately, this will result in more private investment in redevelopment without additional burden to the taxpayers of New Jersey.”

“This bill would allow local governments to restart cleanup projects of brownfield sites where funding may have dried up,” Senator Vitale said. “By allowing for non-interest payments to be made over ten years, it will also open the door for many municipalities to cleanup areas that they had previously deemed unaffordable. The end result will be cleaner, greener communities and greater interest in redeveloping those communities.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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