N.J. Seeks Legal Help for Site Cleanups

Testifying April 15 before a joint hearing of legislative committees, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson proposed a package of legislative reforms that will speed up the pace of contaminated-site cleanups in New Jersey and give the state agency more leverage over how those cleanups are carried out and monitored.

"We have worked closely with wide-ranging groups of stakeholders to craft proposals that will make our site remediation program much more efficient while ensuring our rigid environmental standards are not compromised," Jackson told the Senate Environment Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

"Site remediation reform is a complex and daunting task, yet one that is necessary," Commissioner Jackson added. "Too often, cases linger in the system for years because of competing priorities within the department and laws that give responsible parties too much discretion over site cleanups."

The proposals are the result of meetings with stakeholders that include environmental groups, environmental justice advocates, political leaders, re-developers, and business and industry groups. These meetings led to a series of white papers that allowed the stakeholders to provide considerable input into the reform process.

Jackson proposed a reform package that:

• Enables the DEP to select cleanup remedies when the end use of a property is residential or educational;

• Sets strict time frames that responsible parties must meet in completing each phase of the remediation process;

• Establishes a self-sustaining fund that can be tapped to fix remediation projects that fail;

• Requires testing and notification of local planning and health officials whenever a property's use changes from industrial or commercial to residential;

• Creates a licensing program that holds consultants who perform contaminated-site investigations and cleanups more accountable for the work they do;

• Establishes a permit process for the long-term monitoring of engineering controls such as caps and institutional controls such as deed notices, replacing the current self-reporting system;

• Spurs more brownfield redevelopment by relieving innocent purchasers of responsibility for off-site remediation and holding those responsible for the pollution liable for cleanup.

To view the final site remediation reform white papers, visit www.nj.gov/dep/srp/stakeholders/.

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