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Did Chemical Industry Lobbyists Kill The Passaic City Fire Loophole Legislation?

Emergency Responders and Community At Risk Due to Loopholes In DEP Chemical Safety Programs

A bill to close huge loopholes exposed by the near catastrophic chemical fire in Passaic City is smothered in the Senate Budget Committee and apparently dead.

The people of the city and surrounding communities dodged a deadly bullet, in what could have been “one of the worst disasters in the Country”: (Bergen Record)

I wrote about how loopholes in current laws and DEP regulations put emergency responders and the entire community at risk:

Subsequently, purportedly to address major flaws in NJ’s chemical safety programs, Gov. Murphy issued another toothless Executive Order #284.

We wrote to explain the failures of and mock that Order, see:

It seems like someone in Trenton was listening (I wrote Chairman Smith on Jan. 18, 2022), because on June 2, 2022, Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith and Senator Pou introduced legislation to close exactly the main loophole I wrote about  (but not the environmental justice law loophole) and mandate reforms to DEP’s chemical “Right To Know” program, see S2739:

This bill would require facilities regulated under the “Worker and Community Right to Know Act,” P.L.1983, c.315 (C.34:5A-1 et seq.), to include a consequence analysis that describes potential outcomes of spills, fires, explosions, and other incidents at the facility, as part of the environmental survey the facilities are required to submit to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under that act.

Under the bill, the consequence analysis would be required to:

(1) estimate the potential [deadly] consequences of a spill, fire, explosion, or other incident at the facility;

(2) identify the potential populations exposed to a hazardous substance in the case of spill, fire, explosion, or other incident, through the use of a map or geographic information system (GIS) data;

(3) be comprehensible to the general public, to the maximum extent practicable; and

(4) contain any other information deemed to be in the public interest by the DEP.

The bill appeared to be on a fast track to passage.

Just days after introduction, it was heard and released by the Senate Environment Committee on June 13, 2022, with no testimony or discussion.

But the bill was then referred by Senate President Scutari to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee (Chaired by anti-DEP and pro-business Democrat Paul Sarlo), where all good environmental bills go to die and be killed by corporate lobbyists.

The bill is stalled and appears to be dead.

Perhaps some intrepid journalist can cover the issue and light a fire under Senate President Scutari and Chairman Sarlo and get this bill on the Governor’s desk before the next disaster kills people.

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