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Good News for Public Entities: Positive Steps to Limit Some Negative Impacts of the Site Remediation Reform Act on Municipalities that Acquire Property for Redevelopment

Good News for Public Entities:  Positive Steps to Limit Some Negative Impacts of the Site Remediation Reform Act on Municipalities that Acquire Property for Redevelopment

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) made some important concessions aimed to help with municipal budgets in the proposed regulations that will implement the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA). For site(s) that a municipality involuntarily acquires by virtue of its function as a sovereign, or where a municipality acquires property by any means for the purpose of promoting redevelopment, they will be exempt from joint and several liabilities under the state’s “Spill Act.”  Therefore, the proposed rules and regulations of NJDEP exempt municipalities in these cases from:

  1. Paying annual remediation fees during the years in which local budgets do not contain monies for remediation
  2. Being bound by the requirement to conduct the remediation within mandatory deadlines, including the receptor evaluations and other documents that were due on March 1, 2012
  3. For multi-site Brownfield Development Areas, the NJDEP will consider it as a single site for the purpose of calculating the annual remediation fee and the contaminated media fee, thus lowering these fees for the municipality
  4. Establishing a remediation funding source (RFS)

The rules and regulations become final in May, 2012, but NJDEP has been honoring the spirit of these positive steps during the proposal phase.  NJDEP also reports that these exemptions are available to public entities working on private redevelopment area sites via their innocent party status, too.

Why?NJDEP states in its background document for the rule proposals that it “recognizes the importance of the remediation of brownfield sites so that the underutilized properties can be remediated and returned to productive use, thus producing jobs and tax revenues. The department also recognizes that the funding of the remediation of a brownfield development area by a public entity is often challenging.”  These proposed regulatory changes are in part due to the persistence of the City of Trenton and its Better Environmental Solutions for Trenton (BEST) Advisory Committee in raising these issues to NJDEP. 

Upon hearing this information recently, one central New Jersey county improvement authority exclaimed that this is all such welcome news and felt that members of EDANJ should be informed about these beneficial exemptions.

These proposed changes do not apply to a municipality’s operational site(s)—ones that they own and on which they operate business activities (Department of Public Works yards, etc.). Municipalities, just like all other potentially responsible parties, have an affirmative obligation to remediate the discharge of a hazardous substance and must comply with the SRRA requirements as the “person responsible for conducting remediation.”   Requirements include hiring a Licensed Site Remediation Professional; mandatory and regulatory timeframe requirements to complete phases of work by certain dates; paying remediation fees, document review fees, and oversight costs; obtaining a Response Action Outcome (RAO) at the completion of remediation; receiving a permit for engineering and institutional controls; and maintaining and reporting on the controls.

If you need additional information, contact the EDANJ via sboyle@geiconsultants.com.





 
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