TRENTON – The Senate Budget Committee advanced two contentious environmental bills Monday.
One extends the time allotted for water quality plans and the other extends the time allotted for completion of a remedial investigation of a contaminated property.
In each case, supporters championed the measures as common sense accommodations while the environmentalists trashed them as opportunities for continued pollution.
S3107 deals with an approaching Jan. 17 deadline for water quality plans to be submitted to the state and would provide another two years for compliance. It passed 11-2 with Democratic Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Linda Greenstein in opposition.
Originally, counties were to have submitted wastewater management plans by April 2009. That deadline was extended twice – once by the Department of Environmental Protection and once by the Legislature – but it is due to expire this month.
This proposal has hefty bipartisan prime sponsorship in each chamber.
In the Senate, S3107 is sponsored by Democrat Paul Sarlo and Republican Steve Oroho.
The Assembly version, A4531, is backed by Majority and Minority leaders Lou Greenwald and Jon Bramnick, respectively.
Sarlo said that the Department of Environmental Protection had required all of the state’s 21 counties to create maps and plans for sewer service areas and many simply lacked the resources or experience to accomplish this.
He said it is his understanding that all counties except for Cumberland have submitted maps, and that 10 counties have been approved.
“This is taking a lot longer than any of us would like to have seen,’’ Sarlo said.
N.J. Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel spoke in opposition. “How we handle and manage and plan for sewers determines land use patterns for future generations,’’ he told the panel.
He reminded the committee that New Jersey has been under orders for a decade to update its plans and it has not done so.
S3075 deals with a March 7 deadline for persons responsible for cleaning up a contaminated site. The bill would grant an additional two years to complete a remedial investigation. It passed with one abstention.
This bill, which already cleared the Senate Environment Committee, deals with a situation in which DEP would take over cleanup of a site if the responsible party has failed to meet the deadline for remedial investigation.
Opponents of yet another deadline extension have argued that in some cases, contamination has existed for decades.
Supporters included the N.J. Builders Association, state Chamber of Commerce, and other business and labor groups.
Sen. Linda Greenstein abstained, citing a concern that many of the simpler sites are the ones that have been done but she is unsure how successful site remediation has been with more complicated sites.
One of the prime sponsors, Sen. Jennifer Beck, said the bill is not for everybody, but for those whom the Department of Environmental Protection deems have made a good-faith effort but still need extra time.
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"Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Hudson County Democrat, is balking. He claimed Tuesday that members of his caucus are divided over the measure and that his house is in no real rush – besides, even if enacted this year, the reforms would not take effect until 2017, he said. And with the growing belief that Christie could skip town to run for president, some Democrats are not eager to give him another talking point for his résumé. Christie’s plans to stump for Republican candidates in New Hampshire later Thursday only fuel that suspicion." - columnist Charles Stile- The Bergen Record
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