Tagged: NJDEP

N.J. Appellate Division: Both Parties Were Ineligible for Public Entity Cleanup Grant Where Private Party Conducting Remediation for County’s Benefit Was Not County’s Redeveloper or Agent

N.J. Appellate Division: Both Parties Were Ineligible for Public Entity Cleanup Grant Where Private Party Conducting Remediation for County’s Benefit Was Not County’s Redeveloper or Agent

For purposes of obtaining financial assistance from the State, cleaning up environmental contamination for a governmental body’s benefit is not the same as cleaning it up on behalf of the government as its formal designee. That is the hard lesson that a former landowner learned in the New Jersey Appellate Division’s August 29, 2018 decision in In re Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund Public Entity Grant Application for Remedial Investigation and Remedial Action. When Barry Rosengarten contracted to sell a parcel of land in Perth Amboy to Middlesex County for use as open space, he agreed to remediate environmental contamination, and the County escrowed monies from the sale to be released to Mr. Rosengarten as he performed the cleanup. The County also agreed to cooperate in seeking State grants that could offset those costs and thus reduce Mr. Rosengarten’s net cleanup expenses. Through Mr. Rosengarten’s counsel, the County applied to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for either a Brownfield Development Area Grant or a 75% Recreation and Conservation Grant. NJDEP denied the application after finding that the County was not performing the cleanup and that the contract did not provide that Mr. Rosengarten was doing the work...

New Jersey Appellate Division Upholds $225 Million NJDEP Settlement With Exxon Mobil for Natural Resource Damages

New Jersey Appellate Division Upholds $225 Million NJDEP Settlement With Exxon Mobil for Natural Resource Damages

In 2004, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) sued Exxon Mobil Corporation under the Spill Act to recover natural resource damages (NRDs) for the Bayway refinery in Linden and another facility in Bayonne. Fourteen years later, New Jersey’s Appellate Division has upheld a consent judgment, entered by Judge Michael J. Hogan after a sixty-day bench trial, that settled NJDEP’s claims at the Bayway and Bayonne sites as well as 16 other Exxon facilities (including a terminal in Paulsboro) and over 1,000 retail gas stations, in exchange for a record payment of $225 million. In addition to the validity of the consent judgment itself, the case presented a number of important procedural questions regarding the ability of the non-party appellants – here, State Senator Raymond Lesniak and several environmental organizations – to participate in the litigation and to appeal from the trial court’s entry of the consent judgment. First, the Court upheld the trial court’s refusal to permit Senator Lesniak and the environmental groups to intervene in the case (either as of right or permissively) to argue against the settlement, holding for the first time in a reported decision that a putative intervenor must have standing, and that even under...

Catherine McCabe Assumes Duties as Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Catherine McCabe Assumes Duties as Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Governor Phil Murphy’s nominee for Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) assumed her new duties as Acting Commissioner on January 22, 2018 while she awaits confirmation by the Senate. The new Acting Commissioner has extensive experience with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), having served most recently as both deputy and acting regional administrator of EPA’s Region 2, and as acting administrator of the EPA itself. EPA’s Region 2 includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Acting Commissioner McCabe also served as Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, as a judge on EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. Prior to joining EPA, McCabe held various managerial positions with the U.S. Department of Justice in its Environmental and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Enforcement Section, Natural Resources Section, and Policy, Legislation and Special Litigation Section. She earned her law degree from Columbia Law School, a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Barnard College, and studied environmental science at the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The appointment of an experienced environmental administrator evidences the Governor’s commitment to his ambitious environmental agenda. Susanne Peticolas is a Director in...

All in the Family: N.J. Appellate Division Holds That Status of Pre-1983 Purchaser as “Innocent Party” Applied to Current Owner Despite Property Transfers Among Family Members Via Trusts

All in the Family: N.J. Appellate Division Holds That Status of Pre-1983 Purchaser as “Innocent Party” Applied to Current Owner Despite Property Transfers Among Family Members Via Trusts

Reversing the denial of an application for an “innocent party” grant, the New Jersey Appellate Division recently held in an unpublished opinion, Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, that property transfers among family members, even through the use of trusts, are not “changes of ownership.” Thus, a corporation that acquired a parcel of land in 2006 was eligible to seek an “innocent party” grant that is available only to pre-1983 transferees because the property had remained within the same family since its original acquisition in 1977. The property at issue was originally acquired in 1977 by Robert Higginson, well before the December 31, 1983 cutoff for eligibility as an “innocent party” under New Jersey law. Upon his death 16 years later, he bequeathed the property to his wife through two 50% shares placed into separate trusts. His wife then assigned her shares in the property to two new trusts. The interests of those trusts in the property were subsequently transferred to their son, who created a new entity, Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC, to which he transferred the two 50% shares, making Cedar Knolls the sole owner of the property. Nine years later, Cedar Knolls applied for...

NJDEP Announces Change to Remediation Standards for Certain Contaminants

NJDEP Announces Change to Remediation Standards for Certain Contaminants

On September 18, 2017, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) announced updated soil remediation standards for 19 contaminants. The updates are based on changes to toxicity data for the specified contaminants maintained by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in the agency’s Integrated Risk Information System database. Responsible parties and others conducting cleanups should consult with their Licensed Site Remediation Professionals and other environmental consultants regarding the applicability of the new standards to their sites. The new standards are in effect as of September 18, 2017. A copy of the updated standards can be viewed at NJDEP’s website. David J. Miller is an Associate in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.

We Have to Talk: New Jersey Appellate Division Invalidates Discharge Permit for Failure of Agency to Consult with Highlands Council

We Have to Talk: New Jersey Appellate Division Invalidates Discharge Permit for Failure of Agency to Consult with Highlands Council

In the latest twist in a saga that began in 2002, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) failure to consult with the Highlands Council invalidated a wastewater discharge permit that DEP had issued to the prospective developer of a site located in the “planning area” covered by the state’s Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act (Highlands Act). As a result, the story is guaranteed to continue for several more months and perhaps, in light of likely appeals, several more years. Bellemead Development Corporation first received a New Jersey Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit for the discharge of treated wastewater from a planned development in Tewksbury in 1998. In 2002, with the permit set to expire the next year, Bellemead applied for a renewal of its original permit. DEP’s denial of the application in 2006 set in motion a chain of administrative hearings, apparent settlements, and new applications that culminated in DEP’s issuance of a new permit in 2014. The Township of Readington and several citizen groups appealed. The appellants pointed to a number of procedural missteps by DEP, but the court focused on the department’s failure to consult the Highlands Council prior...

Sovereign Impunity?: State Cannot Be Sued Under New Jersey Spill Act for Pre-Enactment Discharges

Sovereign Impunity?: State Cannot Be Sued Under New Jersey Spill Act for Pre-Enactment Discharges

Since its original enactment in 1976, New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act (commonly known as the Spill Act) has been amended no fewer than ten times. The New Jersey Supreme Court had to grapple with that complicated history in its recent decision in NL Industries, Inc. v. State of New Jersey, No. A-44-15. Reversing the 2015 opinion of the Appellate Division, on which we have already written, the Court held that while the original statute made New Jersey subject to Spill Act liability by including the State in the definition of a “person,” subsequent amendments that (among other changes) expanded some portions of the statute to cover pre-enactment discharges did not “clearly and unambiguously” abrogate the State’s sovereign immunity for pre-enactment activities. As a result, the State can never face Spill Act liability associated with its discharges that occurred before the statute’s effective date of April 1, 1977. The case concerned the remediation of a contaminated site on the shoreline of Raritan Bay with an estimated cleanup cost of $79 million. Development plans for the area in the 1960s led to a proposal to construct a seawall. At least some of the material used in the seawall, which was completed...

Sentence First – Verdict Afterwards?: N.J. Appellate Division Holds That Spill Act Allows Private Parties to Compel Participation in Investigation Based on Potential Responsibility

Sentence First – Verdict Afterwards?: N.J. Appellate Division Holds That Spill Act Allows Private Parties to Compel Participation in Investigation Based on Potential Responsibility

The New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act) has long included a contribution provision that permits private parties to recover cleanup costs incurred to the extent that they exceed their equitable share of those costs. In its recent opinion in Matejek v. Howard, the New Jersey Appellate Division interpreted the statute to give private parties another powerful remedy: the ability to compel other private parties who may be responsible for the contamination to participate in the investigation of the contamination, even before any findings about their respective responsibility. The case arose in Hillsborough, where the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) removed underground tanks from five units in a condominium project after oil was discovered in a nearby stream. After confirming the absence of oil in the stream a few months later, DEP took no further steps. Seven years later, with DEP’s file on the matter still open, the owners of one of the units sued the owners of the other four units, seeking to compel them to participate in and equally share in an investigation and, if necessary, cleanup of their property. Even though there was no evidence about the precise source(s) of the contamination, the trial court...

Governor Signs Off on Amendments to New Jersey’s Electronic Waste Management Act 0

Governor Signs Off on Amendments to New Jersey’s Electronic Waste Management Act

On January 9, 2017, Governor Christie signed into law a bill aimed at fortifying New Jersey’s existing Electronic Waste Management Act, by ensuring that manufactures of certain consumer electronics shoulder the burden for recycling all such devices actually collected in the state during a calendar year. While this new law is technically a recast of the existing statutory scheme, the changes it affects are, in many ways, transformative. This blog provides a broad description of the previous law, the apparent conditions which prompted its revision, and the key innovations of the new law.

Legislature Approves Retroactive One-Year Extension of New Jersey’s Permit Extension Act in Superstorm Sandy-Impacted Counties 0

Legislature Approves Retroactive One-Year Extension of New Jersey’s Permit Extension Act in Superstorm Sandy-Impacted Counties

New Jersey’s Permit Extension Act (“PEA”) sunsetted at the end of 2015 when the Legislature did not enact a further extension. It has now been resurrected and extended retroactively, for one additional year, in nine counties most impacted by Superstorm Sandy. New Jersey’s Permit Extension Act (“PEA”) was initially enacted in 2008 in response to “the crisis in the real estate finance sector of the economy.” The purpose of the PEA was to toll, through the end of 2012, expiration of various approvals necessary for development. The PEA was later amended in 2012, due to the then “current national recession,” to extend the tolling of the expiration of those approvals until December 31, 2014, and a subsequent amendment extended it until December 31, 2015.