A number of Responsible Parties are breathing a sigh of relief. On January 21, 2014, Governor Christie signed legislation authorizing a two year extension for Responsible Parties to complete their remedial investigations before risking being placed under direct oversight of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The deadline has been extended from May 14, 2014, to May 7, 2016, under certain circumstances. Pursuant to the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA), the deadline applies to all site investigations or preliminary assessments that are being conducted to address discharges or contaminated areas of concern that have been or should have been identified on or before May 7, 1999.
In order to be eligible for the extension, Responsible Parties must submit an application to the NJDEP by March 7, 2014, certifying that: (1) “a licensed site remediation professional has been retained to conduct a remediation of the site”; (2) all mandatory requirements have been met at the time of the certification; (3) “technically complete submissions have been made in compliance with all rules and regulations for site remediation, as applicable, for the (a) initial receptor evaluation, (b) immediate environmental concern source control report; (c) light non-aqueous phase liquid interim remedial measure report, (d) preliminary assessment report, and (e) site investigation report”; (4) “a remediation funding source has been established, if required”; (5) “a remediation trust fund for the estimated cost of the remedial investigation has been established,” where a remediation funding source is not required; (6) oversight costs known at the time application are not in dispute and have been paid; and (7) any annual fees for remediation and remediation funding source surcharges have been paid. The establishment of a trust fund to cover the estimated cost of the remedial investigation is a new requirement that was added to this legislation.
Additional time has also been granted for remedial investigation completion due to a delay in financial assistance from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, which has recently announced it has available funds. The bill provides for “an extension of two years after receipt of funding, or no more than two years after the applicant is no longer eligible for funding.” In order to receive the extension, the applicant must submit a certification by March 7, 2014, that the Responsible Party “filed a technically complete and administratively complete application for funding.”
Responsible Parties must be cognizant that the NJDEP may undertake direct oversight during the extension period if the conditions imposed under the extension bill are no longer met, or if the Responsible Party fails to meet a mandatory remediation timeframe after submission of the application. The bill requires the NJDEP to provide notice on its website of the name and location of any site for which an extension is granted, and the length of time for the extension.
A sense of urgency continues to exist for Responsible Parties who do not meet the extension criteria to meet the previously imposed May 7, 2014 deadline.