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

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 by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee yesterday.

“As municipalities and other local government bodies attempt to do more with less, environmental clean-up should not fall by the wayside,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Brownfield remediation is a particularly useful tool to help bring municipalities back from the brink of economic and environmental decay, and should be a priority, recession or otherwise. This bill makes sure that funding is there to allow local government to pursue brownfield remediation and put environmentally blighted properties back to use for local residents.”

“Particularly in urban and industrial communities, polluted sites and brownfield properties represent a serious obstacle to municipal redevelopment,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “Not only are these sites hazardous to local residents’ health and well-being, but they attach a stigma to private development and investment in the area, knowing that any development will overlook an hazardous waste site. This bill makes sure that municipalities have access to the sort of capital needed to get brownfield sites cleaned up.”

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 10 years, and priority status for EDA financial assistance for brownfield remediation 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.

“We have to recognize the realities of chronic budget deficits facing the Garden State,” said Senator Whelan. “However, when we can capitalize on existing programs and maximize the benefit to the people of New Jersey, we ought to pursue those solutions. This bill uses existing funds in the Hazardous Discharge Fund to spur brownfield remediation, and as a result, hopefully encourage more private investment in redevelopment efforts in our communities.”

“At the end of the day, this bill would enable local government agencies to move forward on brownfield clean-up projects which have been stalled as a result of funding drying up,” said Senator Vitale. “It would also allow them to spread the cost of clean-up out over 10 years, without having to pay a dime of interest back to the State of New Jersey. The end result will be cleaner, greener communities and greater interest in redeveloping those communities.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, before going to the full Senate for review.

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