Bill Would Certify Consultants, Speed N.J. Site Cleanups

A bill passed by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly should help break the logjam of 20,000 contaminated sites that need to be remediated before they can be redeveloped, said James A. Kosch, an environmental attorney in LeClairRyan's Newark-based Tort Defense Group.

The bill, which passed in the Assembly by a vote of 75-2 with two abstentions and in the Senate by a vote of 34-4, awaits the signature of Gov. Jon S. Corzine to become law, according to a March 30 press release.

"From the perspective of a firm that represents private landowners and industrial establishments, we think this is a step forward in public and private parties working together to address environmental concerns," said Kosch. "It makes no sense to the state, its citizens, or businesses to have these 20,000 sites unremediated."

The legislation would permit owners and developers of contaminated sites to hire private consultants to certify that their sites are clean following remediation. Supported by the business community, companion bills A-2962 and S1897 are aimed at moving projects forward by assisting the understaffed New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on the certification end. The most serious cases of contamination would still be under the direct oversight of DEP, but a 13-member licensing board would certify qualified professional consultants to oversee the other sites.

The New Jersey legislation is based on a program already in place in Massachusetts and, to a lesser extent, in Connecticut. The bill's sponsors drafted the New Jersey legislation primarily based on the Massachusetts model.

"From what I've seen of the Massachusetts experience, this process works," Kosch said. "Securing clean-up approvals from qualified professionals is basically a technical function and is not all that different than relying on a licensed architect or engineer to build your building."