Environmental Legislative Action
UST Funding Legislation Enacted
Legislation that sets aside a cap on grants from the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank ("UST") Remediation, Upgrade and Closure Fund until March 2004 was signed into law by Acting Governor DiFrancesco on February 5, 2001.
Under the new law (P.L. 2001, Ch.22), more funds are available to be awarded as grants to eligible homeowners and small business owners for the upgrading, maintenance or closure of underground storage tanks. Prior to the enactment, the cap on the fund limited the grant awards to one-third of the fund's annual disbursements, while two-thirds were set aside for low-interest loans. Applications for grant monies, however, far exceeded the allotted one-third.
New Legislation Proposed to Evaluate Brownfields
New legislation released by the State Assembly Appropriations Committee would require an inventory of all publicly-owned brownfield sites and an examination of brownfield sites now used for residential development. The measure, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger, would appropriate $370,000 to the National Center for Neighborhood and Brownfields Redevelopment to take inventory of all known brownfields.
From this inventory, the state will be able to prepare plans for environmental controls and future uses of these abandoned sites once the composition of current and former brownfield sites is known. The bill, A-2759, now heads to the full assembly for consideration.
Death Knell For EICs?
A-2594 prohibits the imposition or collection of rates, fees or other charges commonly referred to as "Environmental Investment Charges" or "EICs" by a county or public authority against any municipality, solid waste generator or collector for the purpose of recovering stranded solid waste facility debt. Recovery of such debt instead would become the legal obligation of the State. On November 13, 2000 the bill was reported out of the Assembly Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee with amendments, and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Senate Passes Additional UST Funding Bill
Another Senate bill, S-1339, that provides for grants to clean up contamination resulting from USTs closed prior to December 31, 1990, has passed in the Senate and had its second reading in the assembly. Under the bill, discovery of contamination must occur more than 5 years after the removal or closure of the tanks, and the applicant must have acquired the property prior to December 31, 1986. Grants may be for up to 50% of remediation costs and may not exceed $1 million to any one person. A companion bill, A-3048, has also had its second reading in the Assembly.
Private Well Testing Bills Advance
A substitute bill for both the Senate and Assembly versions of the "Private Well Testing Act," first reported in the July 2000 issue of UPDATE, was approved by the full Senate and has been sent to the Assembly for consideration (earlier version passed 67-6). A-1306/S-635 would require water quality testing for potable water supplied to dwelling units by private wells as a precondition for real estate transactions, and would allocate $1 million (up from $75,000) to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP") to meet additional staffing needs and for a public information campaign.
According to NJDEP, 300,000 to 400,000 of the states' homes are supplied by private water wells. Approximately 10% of these dwellings are sold annually. Testing water purity at the time of the sale would provide safeguards for the buyers, as well as vital information to NJDEP concerning contamination in specific geographical areas of the state. Under the proposed legislation, well water must meet water quality standards adopted under the bill before conveyance of a dwelling unit, with exceptions for conveyances by foreclosure, judicial or arbitration awards, devise or gifts. The bill also includes provisions for testing before water is drawn from a new well.
Tax Benefits for Effluent Treatment Equipment
Recent issues of UPDATE reported on two bills that would give tax benefits to both the seller and purchaser of equipment that is used exclusively for the treatment of effluent from a wastewater treatment system for purposes of additional treatment and subsequent reuse. Companion bills A-2380/S-1209 establish a tax credit for the purchase of such equipment. A-2381/S-1234 exempt receipts from the sale of this equipment from the "Sales and Use Tax." The Assembly passed both A-2380 and A-2381 and sent them to the Senate where they currently reside in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, along with S-1209 and S-1234.
Proposed Watershed Rules Inconsistent with Legislative Intent
Three resolutions that find NJDEP's proposed Watershed Rules to be inconsistent with legislative intent for failing to clean up and protect State waters (October 2000 UPDATE) are moving forward. Assembly bill ACR-126 was joined with ACR-124, which then passed in the Assembly. In the Senate, ACR-124 had a second reading, as did Senate companion bill, SCR-76.
Governor Whitman had said that she would modify the proposed rules in response to comments, and NJDEP has been holding stakeholder meetings to that end. Acting Governor DiFrancesco has not weighed in yet on this issue.
NJDEP Adopts New Septics Rule
On January 31, 2001, NJDEP adopted Subchapter 6 of its controversial proposed Watershed Rules. The new rule applies to residential developments of six or more units and commercial developments discharging 2,000 gallons per day or more to groundwater. Such new development will have to undergo a rigorous environmental assessment required by Executive Order 109. The rule was published in the New Jersey Register on February 20, to be effective March 20.