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Fenimore Fools

Highlands Council Chairman Jim Rilee

Highlands Council Provided Sham Exemption to Fenimore landfill

Highlands Council could find DEP landfill plan inconsistent with Regional Master Plan

[Update below]

Full disclosure at the outset: I do not respect Highlands Council Chairman and Roxbury Mayor Jim Rilee

In fact, I opposed his NJ Senate confirmation as Highlands Council Chairman and questioned his veracity and integrity in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee – and I stand by that today.

So, tonight – between the second and third period of the Cornell – Clarkson ECAC quarterfinal hockey playoff game – I just read of Rilee’s strong words in his opposition to DEP’s plan to close the Fenimore landfill, reported in Rilee’s hometown Morris Daily Record:

Roxbury mayor, Bucco blast DEP

“We were extremely disappointed with the presentation made by DEP officials at our council meeting on Tuesday,” wrote Rilee, who also serves as the chairman of the New Jersey Highlands Council. “The health and safety of Roxbury residents must be the most important consideration in determining how to repair the significant damage done to our community because of the reopening of the landfill. Clearly, the DEP was not adequately prepared to respond to questions from residents.” …

“We are outraged that the DEP failed to provide adequate supporting data showing their remediation plan is the most effective way to protect the health and safety of Roxbury residents,” Rilee wrote. “The council demands that the state provide factual evidence that they are working on a solution that will ensure clean air and clean water for Roxbury’s residents. Anything less is completely unacceptable.”

Simply speaking, Rilee is full of shit – and he went a really long way in lying to the people of Roxbury about it all.

Despite the fact that Chairman Rilee properly recused himself from the vote, Rilee relies on a Highlands Council decision.

That decision all boils down to this Highlands Council exemption that Rilee relies upon – which is just flat out wrong. Let me explain.

According to the Highlands Council:

The closure of the [Fenimore] landfill qualifies for Exemption #15 under the Highlands Act (project is located in the Preservation Area and NJDEP is the regulatory authority to issue Exemption #15, which is for the remediation of contaminated sites). Thus, the landfill closure is not addressed by the Highlands Council Consistency Determination and Final Recommendation Report.

But the Fenimore landfill does not qualify for exemption #15.

By the plain language of the Highlands Act, Exemption #15 of the Highlands Act applies ONLY to “Industrial Site Recovery Act (AKA “ISRA”, or  cited as P.L 1993, c. 139) regulated facilities.

Here is the language of exemption #15 under the Highlands Act – note that it is specific to sites regulated under just one law:

(15) the remediation of any contaminated site pursuant to P.L.1993, c.139 (C.58:10B-1 et seq.);

The Fenimore landfill is NOT an ISRA facility, the landfill closure and remediation are not conducted pursuant to ISRA,  and is therefore NOT exempt under exemption #15.

It is as simple as that – the Highlands exception was totally bogus. Mr. Rilee is misleading the public about all that.

I know, I was an author of the Highlands Act.

All Chairman Rilee would have to do is have the Highlands Council declare that the DEP plan is inconsistent with the Highlands Act, regulations, and Regional Master Plan and that would kill it.

I  visited and photographed the Fenimore site (scroll down) before the controversy emerged; dabbled in the Fenimore landfill issues and have supported the residents there,  so I was frustrated by just reading the completely misleading and hypocritical bullshit Mr. Rilee spewed in attacking DEP – and readers know I am no fan of the current DEP crew or the Fenimore plan.

Let me explain and make this very simple here right now for tonight, because I’m coming off a huge Cornell win in overtime and I really don’t have adequate time to research and write this issue up properly.

Perhaps Mr. Rilee – as Chairman – should read Section 81 k. of the Highlands Act – I wrote it.

It requires that all DEP remediation – including landfill closure – be  consistent with the Highlands Act, regulations, and Regional Master Plan (with the exception of ISRA sites exempted under #15).

For clarity, here is the text, with a link to the Act:(@ p. 131):

Section 81.

k. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, all remediation standards and remedial actions that involve real property located in the Pinelands area shall be consistent with the provisions of the “Pinelands Protection Act,” P.L.1979, c.111 (C.13:18A-1 et seq.), any rules and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, and with section 502 of the “National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978,” 16 U.S.C. s.471i; and all remediation standards and remedial actions that involve real property located in the Highlands preservation area shall be consistent with the provisions of the “Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act,” P.L. , c. (C. ) (now before the Legislature as this bill), and any rules and regulations and the Highland regional master plan adopted pursuant thereto

Section 81. e includes landfill closure and all other actions pursuant to the Solid Waste Management Act as “remediation” as defined in section 81. k above:

e. Remediation standards and other remediation requirements established pursuant to this section and regulations adopted pursuant thereto shall apply to remediation activities required pursuant to the “Spill Compensation and Control Act,” P.L.1976, c.141 (C.58:10-23.11 et seq.), the “Water Pollution Control Act,” P.L.1977, c.74 (C.58:10A-1 et seq.), P.L.1986, c.102 (C.58:10A-21 et seq.), the “Industrial Site Recovery Act,” P.L.1983, c.330 (C.13:1K-6 et al.), the “Solid Waste Management Act,” P.L.1970, c.39 (C.13:1E-1 et seq.), the “Comprehensive Regulated Medical Waste Management Act,” P.L.1989, c.34 (C.13:1E-48.1 et seq.), the “Major Hazardous Waste Facilities Siting Act,” P.L.1981, c.279 (C.13:1E-49 et seq.), the “Sanitary Landfill Facility Closure and Contingency Fund Act,” P.L.1981, c.306 (C.13:1E-100 et seq.), the “Regional Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility Siting Act,” P.L.1987, c.333 (C.13:1E-177 et seq.), or any other law or regulation by which the State may compel a person to perform remediation activities on contaminated property. However, nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the authority of the department to establish discharge limits for pollutants or to prescribe penalties for violations of those limits pursuant to P.L.1977, c.74 (C.58:10A-1 et seq.), or to require the complete removal of nonhazardous solid waste pursuant to law

This is not even close.

The Fenimore landfill closure plan is issued by DEP pursuant to the Solid Waste Management Act,(and other remedial laws cited in Section 81), laws which were specifically  included in Section 81.

[Note: The DEP’s consultant’s presentation notes the regulatory basis for the closure plan:

  • There are Federal (40CFR258.60) and State (N.J.A.C.7:26‐2A) Regulations that govern landfill closure. 

The State landfill closure regulations are adopted by DEP pursuant to the NJ Solid Waste Management Act. – end note]

Under section 81 of the Highlands Act, that DEP landfill closure plan must be reviewed by the Highlands Council for consistency with the RMP.

The Highlands Act exemption #15 applied by the Highlands Council and cited Mr. Rilee clearly was not valid.

In contrast, the plain language of Section 81 was written to give the Highlands Council review powers over remediating of landfill sites in the Highlands.

How is it possible that this basic first inning issue has been missed for so long? By so many people? Where the hell was the Highlands Coalition?

And thank goodness Cornell won in overtime! It’s off to Lake Placid next weekend!

[Update: 3/17/14 – I need to clarify a few points.

The Highlands Council did not grant exemption 15, DEP did. But the Council did not challenge that exemption and instead recognized it for purposes of their review of the solar installation.

But all that is in the past.

Going forward, based on new information and a citizen’s challenge to their legal interpretation of the Act, the Council could assert jurisdiction over the DEP landfill closure plan pursuant to Section 81 authority I cite above.

The Council would then conduct a consistency review – it would be very difficult for DEP to demonstrate that the proposed closure plan would comply with the surface and groundwater non-degradation policy of the Highlands Act, as well as DEP’s own surface and groundwater quality standards. – end update]


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  1. klmcm
    March 17th, 2014 at 12:24 | #1

    What do we do now? Can you help us? Can you give us some direction as to where we should go? THANKS!

  2. March 17th, 2014 at 12:34 | #2


    1. Stay organized and focused on the demand to truck it out.

    DEP didn’t seem to care about truck traffic or odor impacts when they approved reopening the landfill for disposal of 400,000 cubic yards of wallboard and C&D waste.

    Why are those alleged truck traffic and odor problems not the only reason they oppose truck it out?

    2. Get the groundwater data and the surface water quality data – file OPRA if DEP will not provide.

    3. Approach the Highlands Council and demand that they reconsider the site in light of DEP’s Closure Plan – I wrote those provisions into the Highlands Act to set a higher standard for cleanups in the Highlands – to protect drinking water supply and date resources.

    4. Get up to speed on DEP’s landfill closure regulations. Public hearings are required and the plan must meet surface and ground water quality standards.

    5. Attack DEP’s failure to issue State air permits for the incinerator they call a “scrubber” or “thermal oxidizer”.

    Lots of angles to attack what DEP is trying to do.

  3. klmcm
    March 17th, 2014 at 12:45 | #3

    OK, we’ll get cracking on these ideas. I believe in the past The Highlands council dismissed the fact that the landfill deficiency closure plan and lack of plans was out of their jurisdiction and was a DEP issue. We’ve gotten nowhere at all with the DEP.

  4. March 17th, 2014 at 12:52 | #4

    I am aware of both the HL COuncil and the DEP actions.

    I gave you a strong legal basis to tell the HL Council they are wrong.

    I gave you a strong legal basis to challenge DEP Closure Plan.

    And for FREE!

  5. klmcm
    March 17th, 2014 at 15:09 | #5

    I’m going to get together with the group and get these plans rolling. We’ve had a VERY hard time actually getting either the HL Council or DEP to respond to anything we’ve said.

    Do you have a successful approach you could recommend? We will do anything!

  6. March 17th, 2014 at 15:14 | #6

    Get a lawyer to tell both DEP and Highlands Council that you will sue to block the plan if DEP and HC don’t comply with their own rules

    Put public pressure on Mr. Rilee – call him out publicly on his “exemption 15 excuse”.

    Keep raising hell.

    You can win with with a combination of high profile and harsh political tactics (which you’ve all done very well so far!) backed by credible legal threats and high litigation risk.

  7. klmcm
    March 17th, 2014 at 17:06 | #7

    OK, hate to keep pushing for details and I TRULY appreciate your time! I want to be sure we’re getting this done right. I fear we’re running out of time!

    We are trying to get our town lawyer to help us but at this point in time he’s recommending we wait on the DEP. What we’re waiting for, who knows! Probably for it to be too late to do anything.

    Therefore, I presume we should try and contact another lawyer. Do we simply need someone who’s a lawyer to write a letter or do we need to an environmental lawyer who’s familiar with this type of stuff to do some true representing?

    Do you know any lawyers who could do this on a discount? We’ve already been conned by one lawyer who collected $150 a family and has vanished.

    Thank you SO VERY MUCH for any assistance and details you can provide!

  8. March 17th, 2014 at 17:18 | #8

    Try Bill Potter in Princeton. He’s done lots of public interest legal work.,

    Look up former Highlands Council lawyer Tom Borden – he’d be great on your issues.

    Brad Campbell, former DEP Commissioner would be great legal talent.

    Mike Pisauro is an environmental lawyer with an office in Pennington.

  9. klmcm
    March 18th, 2014 at 12:11 | #9

    You are AMAZING!!!! Thank you! We have a large meeting tomorrow night where I’ll share all of this information AND be collecting letters for the Highlands Council to be sent via certified mail!

  10. klmcm
    March 18th, 2014 at 13:30 | #10

    One more (hopefully easy) question. We’re going to send certified letters to the Highlands Council. Should we do each member? Just the president? Or do you have another thought completely?

    Since it’s $6.90 for each letter we want to get the most value with our letters.

  11. March 18th, 2014 at 14:04 | #11

    Legally you only need one.

    Save your bullets.

    Send the other letters US mail.

    Don’t forget to issue a press release announcing the letter.

  12. klmcm
    March 19th, 2014 at 14:04 | #12

    You truly are a wealth of knowledge – if you’re in the Randolph area stop by our fundraiser tonight at The Barn. I’ll be there between 7:00-8:30 and I’ll buy you a drink for your help!

  13. March 19th, 2014 at 14:40 | #13

    Love to but can’t make it tonite. Let me know how you make out and how I can help.

  14. klmcm
    March 19th, 2014 at 15:15 | #14

    Since Riley is chairman and he’s no good we’re sending letters to

    Gene F. Feyl
    Executive Director of the NJ Highlands Council
    100 North Road
    Chester Township, NJ 07930

  1. April 11th, 2014 at 16:54 | #1
  2. June 21st, 2014 at 20:26 | #2
  3. June 12th, 2015 at 09:30 | #3
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