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[IMGCAP(1)]ISELIN, NJ-With New Jersey running out of virgin land and more companies redeveloping brownfield sites, a great deal of attention is being paid to environmental remediation. Like many laws, those governing remediation are evolving, and the changes were recently discussed by a panel at NJ Naiop’s annual regulatory update, held at the Woodbridge Hilton here.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Jorge Berkowitz, a consultant with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services Inc. Berkowitz, who worked with the NJ DEP for nearly a decade, reminded attendees of the importance of bringing the laws up to date.

[IMGCAP(2)]“What happens now with site remediation we’ll have to live with for a very long time,” he said. For a while, site remediation was handled by the private sector, with some input by DEP. But then the Kiddie Kollege scandal erupted: A children’s daycare was found to be on a site previously occupied by a factory. The land was found to be heavily contaminated with mercury. Soon after, a stakeholder group was formed to propose legislation that would change how site remediation was done in New Jersey.

“We’re at a point that’s critical,” said Berkowitz. “There are a lot of changes to be made.”

Irene Kropp, assistant commissioner of the site remediation program with the NJ DEP, next took the podium to describe what the stakeholders found. The number one problem was found to be the slow, protracted process, which resulted in a backlog of 20,000 cases. To address this issue, the new legislation borrows the Licensed Site Professional program from Massachusetts. LSPs, which will be able to render opinions on cases on behalf of the state, will eventually be licensed by New Jersey. Until the licensing program can get off the ground, LSPs will be chosen based on experience.

The legislation, S1897, also establishes a four-tier system for case reviews that establishes the level of DEP oversight for different types of cases, who will submit the case report, and where the funding for remediation will come from.

Although the other panelists applauded DEP’s attempts to fix the legislation, they did have some concerns. Andrew Robins, a shareholder with Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, worried that the changes might make the process even more expensive for developers. He pointed out that the LSPs will have their licenses on the line every time they review a case, and so many will play it safe and ask developers to take additional, possibly unnecessary remediation steps.

Donald Richardson, a senior program manager with Brownfield Practice Group at Kleinfelder, says that there’s a problem with predictability in the review process and that there needs to be more certainty for developers. He also called on the state to set a high bar when developing a sound set of metrics to judge the issues that will inevitably come up on the contaminated sites.

“I see a lot of change, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Richardson told the audience.

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