The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) recently issued new vapor intrusion screening levels (“VISL”) and related guidelines, which will have an immediate impact on existing remediation sites. The screening levels were updated to reflect the changes in toxicity values and risk-based equations set forth in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (“USEPA”) most recent Regional Screening Level (“RSL”) Tables. NJDEP implemented the new VISL as of January 16, 2013. Parties conducting remediations and their Licensed Site Remediation Professionals will need to analyze how these new screening levels impact their sites.
As companies in the northeast region take advantage of an improving real estate market, in the face of aggressive agency enforcement, and complex environmental programs and policies, the need for environmental counsel to assist with transactions, navigate potential pitfalls, and mitigate future liability, has become essential. In a recent article published by The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, three new Gibbons Directors – William Hatfield, Camille Otero, and David Freeman – discuss the firm’s strategic decision to expand the practice group, the growth of the environmental law market, and how their experience can assist clients in this expanding field.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) will soon release scores for contaminated properties pursuant to the Remedial Priority Scoring (“RPS”) system. The RPS system was mandated by the Spill Compensation and Control Act (N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.16) as amended by the Site Remediation Reform Act (“SRRA”). Under the statute, the factors that NJDEP may consider in ranking the sites include: the level of risk to the public health, safety, or the environment; the length of time the site has been undergoing remediation; the economic impact of the contaminated site on the municipality and on surrounding property; and any other factors deemed relevant by the NJDEP.
Irvin M. Freilich, Team Leader of the Gibbons Environmental Practice, Susanne Peticolas and Paul M. Hauge (Director and Associate, respectively) authored the lead article in the Environmental Law section of the February 27, 2012, New Jersey Law Journal. The article, entitled “Step Aside or Step Up?,” discusses recent decisions from the New Jersey Appellate Division in Magic Petroleum Corp. v. Exxon Mobil Corp. and from the Third Circuit in Raritan Baykeeper v. NL Industries, Inc. These environmental cases involve the often-confusing doctrine of primary jurisdiction, under which courts — sometimes — abstain from rendering a decision in a given case to allow an expert agency to make its own determination first. You can read the entire article here.
The Extension of the Permit Extension Act is on the Move, To Be Reviewed Today By Assembly Appropriations Committee
About two months ago, several NJ Legislators, including State Senator Paul Sarlo (Bergen/Passaic) and Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, proposed bills that would amend the 2008 “Permit Extension Act.” Designed to give developers breathing room in the sluggish economy by extending the validity of development approvals, Proposed Bill S743 (the “Bill” or “S743”) is gaining traction and is moving through the necessary legislative committees. On March 5, 2012, S743 passed by a vote of 4-0 by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The Bill is scheduled to go before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on March 12, 2012.
Apparently concerned that the economy may not be recovering rapidly enough, the 215th New Jersey Legislature now convened, introduced a new bill (A337) on January 10, 2012, by Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer of District 12, to change the definition of the “extension period” under the Permit Extension Act so that it runs through December 31, 2015. Therefore, based on the 6-month tolling provision currently in the Permit Extension Act, approvals received for development applications during the extension period could be extended as far out as June 30, 2016. Bill A337 has been referred to the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.
In the next few weeks, responsible parties for some 12,000 known contaminated sites in New Jersey will be receiving a letter with a draft Remedial Priority Score (RPS) for their particular site compliments of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The NJDEP has not specified how the rankings will be used, although the RPS system has been described by the NJDEP as “a triage tool to sort sites for further consideration.”
On August 18, 2011, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and DOT Commissioner James Simpson released a set of guidelines to revamp and apply consistency to New Jersey’s land leasing process for State Lands. A panel of ten State Agencies was convened to analyze the current lease policies and compile a Lease Valuation Report that offers recommendations on leases for Tidelands; Linear Corridor Projects (other than Tidelands); Publicly Bid, Market-Based and Nominal Fee leases; Telecommunications Towers and Antennas, Aquaculture, and leases Related to Transportation Corridors. The guidelines will be adopted by all State agencies, with most of the guidelines implemented immediately.
On August 15, 2011, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued proposed Final Rules to implement the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) adopted in May 2009. These rules are intended to be the final implementation step in the phased transition of New Jersey’s site remediation process from NJDEP command and control to private oversight by Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs). Instead of NJDEP overseeing every step of a cleanup, the LSRP, licensed by a 13-member Licensed Site Remediation Professional Board with investigative and disciplinary powers, is responsible for making day-to-day decisions about a clean-up. Certain categories of cleanups remain under NJDEP oversight, such as where the responsible party has a history of non-compliance or has failed to meet mandatory deadlines. The rule proposal appeared in the New Jersey Register on August 15, 2011 and can be viewed online. Comments can be submitted until October 14, 2011.
The New Jersey Appellate Division delivered a rebuke to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on August 1, finding that DEP’s Commissioner ignored undisputed evidence and made critical legal errors in holding that two development projects did not qualify for an exemption from the strict requirements of the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. The court’s decision in Lakeside Manor v. State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reversed the Commissioner’s decision, finding that the developer had satisfied all statutory requirements for the exemption.