Law Will Expand NJ’s Renewable Energy Industry, Put Closed Landfills to Good Use
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which will permit the development of solar, photovoltaic and wind energy facilities on closed landfills or quarries was signed into law last week.
“As we head into the winter months, residents of New Jersey once again feel the strain of high energy and oil costs associated with the cold weather, reminding us that it is long past time that we explore clean, renewable energy sources as viable alternatives,” said Senator Whelan (D-Atlantic). “By opening up closed landfills for solar farms and wind energy facilities, we are positioning New Jersey as a national, if not global, leader in the expanding green economy. This law allows the development of otherwise unusable land, creating jobs and encouraging economic growth in municipalities while harnessing cleaner energy and lowering people’s utility bills and property taxes.”
The law, S-2126, provides 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 law, the Pinelands Commission will 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 law includes 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 will 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 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 law allows communities within the Pinelands preservation area, who have been struggling to attract new development and new tax ratables as a result of the Pinelands preservation law, to draw new economic activity to sites otherwise left 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. “By opening up this land to be used for cheap, clean energy, we are standing by the premise of the Pinelands law to preserve our natural resources, while creating jobs for local residents and expanding the Garden State’s green economy. At the end of the day, this law means environmentally-sensitive, responsible economic growth for communities who 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 300 years before every landfill in the Pinelands region is restored to usable land,” said Senator Whelan. “This law puts those lands to use today while simultaneously promoting a cutting-edge field of research and technology, boosting an environmentally-friendly business model which will lead to the creation of jobs and the preservation of natural resources, and establishing South Jersey as a national leader in the emerging green economy.”
The bill passed in the Senate in April and in the Assembly earlier this month.