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NJ environmental bill helps define state's cleanup law.

The New Jersey Senate has introduced a bill (S-1070) that will amend the Environment Cleanup Responsibility Act, (ECRA) a move that industry experts claim will unshackle many property owners in the state, but which still keeps intact the intent and strength of the state's strict environmental regulations.

According to Irv Cohen, president of Enviro Sciences, Inc., in Mt. Arlington, New Jersey, the proposed amendments to New Jersey's ECRA law are important because they finally provide definitions to the state's statute. He indicated that this is a key step in streamlining the ECRA process for the business community, while still protecting the public interest. The most far-reaching of these amendments is the establishment of a low-interest bond fund, which provides financing for both small and larger businesses who cannot afford the costs involved with cleanup of a contaminated site.

"This will ensure the timely remediation of contaminated property, while reducing the financial burden often faced by businesses under present law," stated Cohen. "The fund will also eliminate the double dipping inherent with the existing laws."

Currently, he said, in order to secure a cleanup plan approved by the Department of Environment Protection and Energy (DEPE), a company must post a bond upon approval of the submitted plan, which cannot be touched during the cleanup.

"Therefore the company must also provide separate funding for the actual remediation," he said.

In many instances, this double funding has been hurting property owners in their attempt to finance the actual cleanup, delaying the remediation of a potential public hazard and possible resulting in the issuance of fines to the company," stated Richard Katz, the first Assistant Chief of the ECRA program (1984-1986) and now a vice president of Enviro Sciences. "At a proposed 2% interest rate, this new fund provides the necessary financing mechanism."

Amendments also include a one-year amnesty program for ECRA and the Spill Act, and an expansion of the limited conveyance program which allows a portion of a site to be transferred without a full ECRA study of the property. Other changes include improve definitions of subject transactions, including some "safe harbor" exemptions, and a clearer authorization to the DEPE to enter into Administrative Consent Orders and issue |No Further Action' letters.

According to Katz, the revised statute will also streamline the process for those involved with ECRA-subject sites. This is especially true for those currently involved with a cleanup plan on a site that has already changed hands. Once the cleanup is completed, the owners will not have to go through the full ECRA process all over again, alleviating the "Multiple jeopardy" aspects of the program.
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Title Annotation:New Jersey; Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Aug 5, 1992
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