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Whelan Bill To Allow Closed Landfills, Quarries To Be Converted To Renewable Energy Farms Advances

Bill Would Expand NJ’s Renewable Energy Industry, Put Closed Landfills to Good Use

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which would permit the development of solar, photovoltaic and wind energy facilities on closed landfills or quarries was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 32-1, receiving final legislative approval.

“As we saw with the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the massive BP oil spill, there’s more demand for cleaner, renewable and sustainable forms of energy than ever before,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “By allowing closed landfills and quarries to be used as solar and wind farms, we are positioning New Jersey as a national, if not global, leader in the expanding green economy. This bill put otherwise-unusable land to good use for the community, creates jobs and encourages economic growth in municipalities which are still struggling from the effects of a global economic crisis.”

The bill, S-2126, would provide that, notwithstanding any existing law, local ordinance or regulation, that the development of solar and photovoltaic energy facilities or structures on any closed landfill or quarry, or an existing or closed resource extraction operation, be a permitted land use in every municipality in the State, including areas preserved under the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan. Under the bill, the Pinelands Commission would be required to review any application for the development of a renewable energy facility on the site of a closed landfill or quarry, and determine that the development is in conformance with the applicable standards of the management plan. The bill was amended to include wind energy facilities as a permitted use in areas not already under the protection of the Pinelands management plan.

The development of a renewable energy facility would be prohibited from adversely impacting any existing engineering devices or environmental controls located on the site to facilitate site remediation, or any ecologically-sensitive areas located on, adjacent to, or within the same sub-watershed as the site proposed for development, except as may be approved by the Pinelands Commission, in consultation with the State Department of Environmental Protection. Additionally, the bill would prohibit renewable energy facilities on sites which have been reforested, or which are considered habitat critical to the survival of a threatened or endangered species of animal or plant.

“Many of the communities which are affected by this bill are approaching build-out or are otherwise prohibited from new development as a result of the Pinelands preservation law,” said Senator Whelan, who as then-mayor of Atlantic City, attracted the Borgota resort – a billion dollar investment – to develop on top of a closed landfill. “If we can open up land to be used for the production of cheap, clean energy, that’s a much-needed economic solution for municipalities, and creates jobs for local residents while expanding our State’s green economy. This is a win-win situation for municipalities which are quickly running out of options, or may already be out of developable land.”

Senator Whelan noted that there are nearly 80 unused landfills within the Pinelands preservation area, and of those 80, there are only two which have been capped. The other 78 landfills are sitting as unusable, undevelopable land.

“At the current rate of landfill remediation it could take up to 3 centuries before every landfill in the Pinelands region is restored to usable land,” said Senator Whelan. “Unfortunately, local residents can’t wait that long for new economic investment in their communities and new jobs in the area. This bill would promote an emerging environmentally-friendly business model, establish diversity in the South Jersey regional economy, and create new, high-paying jobs in a cutting-edge field of research and technology.”

The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.

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