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 Environment and Energy Committee today by a vote of 4-0.

“With the oil spill in the gulf, more people are paying attention to cleaner, safer methods of energy production,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “Renewable energy production is emerging as a major new industry, and New Jersey should position itself as a national leader in the field. By allowing for the development of renewable energy farms on top of closed landfills and quarries, which are otherwise not being used, we can remediate these sites and expand our capacity to produce clean, renewable power.”

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.

“This bill would allow communities within the Pinelands preservation area, and across the State, to attract new economic activity on sites which would otherwise be sitting dormant,” 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. “It allows local officials to put closed landfills and quarries to good environmental and economic use, creating new jobs and reclaiming unused and unusable land. At the end of the day, it will mean environmentally-sensitive, responsible economic growth for communities looking to build their economy and take advantage of the booming renewable energy market.”

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.

“If we continue at the current pace of capping and remediating landfills in the Pinelands, it’ll be 3 centuries until those sites are once again usable land,” said Senator Whelan. “This bill puts those lands to use today to generate environmentally-friendly energy and create new jobs and economic opportunities for communities in the Pinelands.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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