I am contacting you today regarding an issue that affects us all and requires your immediate attention. On February 26, 2009 the New Jersey Senate Environment Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee are expected to vote on the Site Remediation Reform Act (S1897 and A2962). This act will significantly improve how the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) processes approvals for site cleanups.
The new approach the DEP will use is modeled on a highly successful Licensed Site Professional program used in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, most cleanups occur within 1-2 years as opposed the average 10 years it takes in New Jersey.
As you look around your own municipality you will undoubtedly observe the remnants of New Jersey’s long industrial history or the consequences of our high-density population. Far too many contaminated sites such as these continue to scar our communities. Not only are they potential health threats but they impede economic growth opportunities. We all know that these sites present potentially boundless redevelopment opportunities, ways to grow the economy and build a better future by taking development pressure off areas that should be protected such as farms and forest.
Senator Smith and Assemblyman McKeon, the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly Environment Committees have been working very closely with the DEP and a large diverse group of stakeholders over the past 2 ½ years to develop the Site Remediation Reform Act (S1897 and A2962). Together, they have proposed a system that will allow the DEP to make substantial progress in paring down the backlog of contaminated sites and better protect our communities.
The act relies on the licensing of environmental consultants as its cornerstone. Once these professionals are licensed they will essentially stand in the shoes of the DEP and the DEP’s role will one of an audit function. Cases that pose the greatest health risks or are being delayed because of recalcitrant parties will receive more direct DEP oversight. The act also provides the DEP with the authority to establish mandatory remediation time frames so cases move through remediation expeditiously. It also allows for stronger protections when an redevelopment’s end use includes residential housing, schools or child care facilities.
The New Jersey State League of Municipalities recognizes the need for these critical reforms and therefore, I urge you to contact your legislators and express your support for the Site Remediation Reform Act (S1897 and A2962) before February 26, 2009.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue which is key to stimulating economic development in our communities. For a summary of the Site Remediation Reform Act (S1897 and A2962) click here.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.