December 2, 2011
Re: S-3119, Establishes notification requirements for combined sewer overflows
Yesterday in Trenton, Senator Bob Smith, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee began the discussion and invited comments on S-3119. This bill, which was recently introduced by Senator Smith, would mandate public notice in the event of a discharge of untreated waste into the waters of the State.
In a letter to Senator Smith and the members of the Committee, the League agreed that such notification would serve a useful public purpose. The underlying objectives of S-3119 are laudable, and will undoubtedly garner support from the public as well as a broad-range of interested stakeholders. Likewise, the primary goal of all elected officials is to serve and defend the public interest. Providing public notice to our citizens regarding the discharge of untreated wastewater certainly furthers this goal.
However, the League has some concerns with the legislation as currently drafted. Accordingly, we provided legislators with a copy of the League Conference Resolution 2011-13, which urges that, “…Congress and the Administration enact new legislation which provides adequate and reliable long-term funding for municipal water infrastructure needs…” While we commend the intentions of S-3119, the threats to the public welfare that can result from these overflows are best prevented by modernizing our existing infrastructure. S-3119, if adopted, would provide important notice after the fact, but our overall policy should be to adequately fund improvements to existing infrastructure, which would prevent most untreated discharges before they start.
Further, the Department of Environmental Protection already has broad regulatory authority and could, under existing authority, implement most, if not all, of the provisions outlined in S-3119. The League would urge the Committee to fully explore the extent of existing authority provided to the DEP under existing legislation.
Finally, we are unsure if involving three different agencies at different levels of government is the best means to implement the proposed policy. S-3119 would require coordination between local boards, the DEP and the Department of Health and Senior Services.
Senator Smith welcomed all comments on the bill. It is his plan to consider requests for amendments to the bill, which he will reintroduce for consideration in the next Legislative Session, early next year.
He specifically noted the likelihood that the notification mandates could constitute an unconstitutional unfunded mandate. He, further, recognized the fact that cap law constraints may need to be loosened, to facilitate compliance with the new mandates, without jeopardizing funding for other important programs and services.
If you would like to comment on the bill, please contact the Senator at:
Hon Bob Smith
State Senator, District 17
216 Stelton Rd.
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.