Home > Uncategorized > NJ Senate Bill Would Prohibit DEP Oversight of Some of NJ’s Worst Toxic Industrial Sites

NJ Senate Bill Would Prohibit DEP Oversight of Some of NJ’s Worst Toxic Industrial Sites

Ban On DEP Oversight Would Put Corporate Polluters In Control of 81 Of NJ’s Worst Sites

Remarkably, this stealth rollback received no explanation, justification, or testimony

It is not in the public interest, would undermine community involvement in cleanups, increase delays in cleanups, and would increase and prolong risks to human health and the environment.

This post is a followup to my prior post on Senate bill S3682.

Before reading, as a reality check, you might want to hit this link and briefly look at this EPA Region 2 list of 81 NJ RCRA Corrective Action Program industrial toxic sites. Look at those corporate polluters!

Then consider that Chairman Smith’s bill would prohibit DEP from assuming oversight at these sites – regardless of whether they are violating or flouting NJ statutory cleanup deadlines or NJ DEP cleanup regulations and/or cleanup standards – thereby putting corporate polluters in perpetual unilateral control of the cleanups! (subject only to the rubber stamp of the pro-industry Trump EPA and industry friendly federal RCRA regulations)

(Here is one illustration of the stakes of this abdication: DEP and US EPA share joint oversight of a RCRA Corrective Action cleanup at one of NJ’s worse toxic sites, the Dupont Pompton Lakes site. While Dupont has delayed cleanup and restoration of natural resources for over 35 years, in theory, DEP could invoke the NJ Spill Act and assume direct oversight and complete control of the cleanup, and send the cleanup bill to Dupont. In theory, this NJ DEP power puts pressure on Dupont and US EPA. Without it, Dupont can act with impunity as there is no federal EPA enforcement stick. If you hit the site specific links in the left hand column on the link I provided, here’s how EPA reports the status of that cleanup:

Human Exposure under Control:

No status has been recorded. ~~~

Thirty five years later, and people are still exposed to Dupont’s toxics. ~~~ end Note]

OK, now that I have your attention, read my letter to Chairman Smith and contact him and your legislators to stop this corporate sellout.

[Note – the Assembly version, A5293 was released by Committee today. Senate Chairman Smith promised to release the bill from his Committee next Monday, June 17. This bill is moving incredibly quickly – the skids are greased. Totally corrupt. Totally.]

Dear Chairman Smith –

This brief note follows up and clarifies one point in my prior June 4, 2019 email regarding the impact of the bill on cleanups at sites with federal involvement.

Since that initial review, I listened to the testimony before your Committee on the bill. I will be submitting additional comments, but today will focus only on Section 26. Curiously, there was no testimony or publicly presented summary or policy justification provided for Section 26.

Section 26 of your bill, S3682, would amend current law regarding the criteria and conditions that trigger and under which DEP is required to (“shall”) assume direct oversight.

The amendments in your bill would prohibit DEP (“shall not undertake direct oversight”) from undertaking direct oversight, among other things, when: (emphasis mine)

(2) the contaminated site is subject to federal oversight, the person has made timely submissions to the department, and the person was unable to meet the applicable timeframe due to the performance of additional review by the department pursuant to subsection c. of section 21 of P.L.2009, c.60 (C.58:10C-21).

Among an unknown total universe, the subject language would apply at least to 81 RCRA Corrective Action Program sites, see this EPA Region 2 list:


These RCRA sites are some of the worst and highest risk industrial toxic sites in NJ.

Under federal RCRA Corrective Action regulations, control of the cleanups at these sites is under the control of major corporate polluters, subject to extremely lax Trump EPA oversight and industry friendly RCRA corrective action regulations.

Your bill would prohibit and eliminate the DEP’s authority to assume direct oversight of these high risk sites for failure to meet cleanup deadlines (and even worse performance, see following point), and thereby perpetuate corporate control of the cleanup, regardless of whether these corporate polluters flout NJ’s statutory cleanup deadlines and requirements.

That is extremely ill advised policy

Additionally, the proposed amendment would apply to additional reviews triggered by Section 21, of P.L. 2006, c.60.

Those additional reviews are triggered by, among other criteria, conditions and/or events:

(1)   the contamination at the site poses a significant detrimental impact on public health, safety, or the environment as determined by a receptor evaluation or the site is ranked by the department in the category requiring the highest priority pursuant to the ranking system developed pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1982, c.202 (C.58:10-23.16);

     (2)   the contamination at the site may affect a licensed child care center, school or other sensitive population;

     (3)   the contaminated site is located in a low-income community of color that has a higher density of contaminated sites and permitted discharges with the potential for increased health and environmental impacts, as compared to other communities; or

     (4)   State grants or loans are being used to remediate the site or area of concern.

  1. The department may perform additional review of any document, or may review the performance of a remediation, if:

     (1)   the site or a portion thereof is in a brownfield development area or other economic development priority area;

     (2)   the remediation is subject to federal oversight;

     (3)   the person responsible for conducting the remediation or the licensed site remediation professional conducting the remediation has been out of compliance with P.L.2009, c.60 (C.58:10C-1 et al.), P.L.1993, c.139 (C.58:10B-1 et al.), P.L.1986, c.102 (C.58:10A-21 et seq.), P.L.1983, c.330 (C.13:1K-6 et al.), or P.L.1976, c.141 (C.58:10-23.11 et seq.), or any rules and regulations adopted pursuant to those laws;

     (4)   the contaminated site has had an impact on a natural resource;

     (5)   an oversight document, administrative order or remediation agreement is in effect for the contaminated site that requires department review and approval of submissions;

     (6)   there is substantial public interest in the contaminated site;

     (7)   the person responsible for conducting the remediation has proposed the use of alternative or site specific remediation standards for the contaminated site;

     (8)   the remediation requires the issuance of a permit by the department;

     (9)   the use of the contaminated site is changing from any use to residential or mixed use;

     (10)  the submission may not be in compliance with any rules and regulations applicable to contaminated site remediation; or

     (11)  the remediation may not be protective of the public health, safety, or the environment.”

Again, these are the LAST sites that DEP should be prohibited from assuming direct oversight for failure to meet cleanup deadlines.

It is not in the public interest, would undermine community involvement in cleanups, increase delays in cleanups, and would increase and prolong risks to human health and the environment.

I strongly urge that you delete proposed Section 26 from your bill.


Bill Wolfe

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