Private Consultants To Oversee NJ Cleanups

Governor Corzine signed Executive Order No. 140 on May 7, 2009, which will almost certainly shake up the regulatory scene in the Garden State.  Under the new bill, some 19,000 properties, encompassing everything from residential USTs to large industrial facilities, may now be supervised by contractors who are licensed by a new state board.  New Jersey’s new program is modeled after a similar program in Massachusetts, which has increased its cleanup efficiency since it began privatizing cleanups some years ago. Under the MA program, Licensed Site Professionals ("LSPs") are selected and regulated by the Board of Registration of Hazardous Waste Site Cleanup Professionals. Demands for an overhaul of the remediation program in New Jersey began in 2006 after mercury contamination was found at a child care center in Gloucester County.  (So much for the bright idea of housing a day care facility, Kiddie Kollege, in the former thermometer manufacturing plant!).  At the time, NJDEP officials cited staff cuts that hampered the ability of the agency to oversee cleanups and an increase in the average case load of NJDEP project managers.  Of course, not everyone is thrilled about the new law.  Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, believes the law will leave a "polluted legacy" throughout the state and "toxic time bombs" to be discovered by future generations.  But the real issue is how tough the new licensing board is likely to be in setting up the criteria for its LRSP’s and what disincentives will be put in place to discourage LRSP’s from cutting corners.  The New Jersey Sierra Club’s Press Release cautions that this law may have a transformative effect on how the government protects the public’s health.  Certainly, no one can reasonably dispute that the new legislation will be create an employment mini-boom among environmental consultants in New Jersey.  More importantly, the law should result in a re-focusing on polluted sites that have not been given adequate regulatory attention in the past.  Based upon the Massachusetts experience, the new law has the potential to be extremely beneficial for the environment and public health in New Jersey.