By Steve Lubetkin
Technical changes to the 10-year-old Site Remediation Reform Act incorporate many lessons learned since the law was originally enacted, industry insiders said last week, as a bill that would update the program now awaits a decision by Gov. Phil Murphy.
“The process of amending SRRA has been going on since 2017, and it involved many discussions, both heated and productive,” said Susan Karp of Karp Environmental Law, who moderated a panel discussion hosted by NAIOP New Jersey.
Not all of the changes proposed by industry participants survived in the final bills, panelists said. For instance, Karp said the issue of who needs to be informed if a potential property buyer finds contamination during due diligence is not in the bill.
“We focused on what we could do collectively,” said Dennis Toft, chair of the environmental group at law firm Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC, speaking during NAIOP’s annual Regulatory, Legislative & Legal Update at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. “While certainly, there was some disappointment in the regulated community, I think we ended up with something that’s going to be a better process.”
The changes, included in bills S3682 and A5293, are now awaiting Murphy’s signature after being passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the state Legislature. The Senate on June 20 passed the bill 36-0, while the Assembly voted 74-0 with one abstention on June 27.
Discussions on other changes sought by developers will continue as part of the regulatory process, Toft said.
The amendment process was a chance to incorporate lessons learned, said Mark J. Pedersen, assistant commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“We looked at 10 years of implementing this new paradigm,” he said. “What did we miss? What did we make a mistake on? At the end of the day, it’s got to be protective to human health and the environment.”
Technical changes collected in the legislation, which is sometimes referred to as SRRA 2.0, clarifications regarding:
- The responsibility of property owners to obtain environmental remediation work plans from Licensed Site Remediation Professionals, or LSRPs, and the option for them to designate an LSRP to respond to public inquiries about the remediation
- What actions are included in the definition of “remediation”
- Making clear that property owners need to retain the services of an LSRP for the life of their environmental remediation permit, but do not need to have an LSRP on their company payroll,
- That LSRPs may not employ non-LSRPs to perform the remediation work unless an LSRP supervises it
- The types of documents that need to be supplied to municipalities regarding a site remediation project, and when public notices need to be given
- Making a distinction between written notice to the public and signage on a property
- Permitting an exemption from environmental remediation for unoccupied buildings that are going to be demolished
“I think LSRPs have more obligation on them and accountability individually than any environmental professional in the state ever did,” Pedersen said. He recalled a meeting with single-practitioner LSRPs at which one woman admitted to him that she didn’t sleep well because “I’m accountable for everything that I do.”
“To me that speaks volumes to the integrity of the individuals who are licensed and how they take their jobs seriously,” he said.
The legislation also requires the DEP to “encourage the use of green and sustainable practices during the remediation of a contaminated site,” he added, but not if those practices would “alter the requirement that the remediation be protective of the public health and safety and of the environment.”