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Governor Signs Bill on Toxic Site Clean Up

Date : Fri, 20 Jul 2012 11:37:12 -0400

For Immediate Release

July 10, 2012

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Governor Signs Bill on Toxic Site Clean Up**

Today Governor Christie signed a bill to help clean up toxic sites across the state. S1460 (Sweeney) would require that money received from property tax appeals on vacant or underused industrial sites be used for site remediation. The bill also allows municipalities to charge the property owner an annual fee until the toxic site is cleaned up.This bill will help hold polluters accountable for the cost of cleanups while helping get these sites remediated more quickly.The Governor signed the bill just days after an Appellate Court ruled that the DEP does not have the authority to require minimum cleanup standards on toxic sites before they are sold due to the Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA) and the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA).

"As the Governor requires polluters to fund cleanups of their sites, he must also move forward with an appeal of the recent court decision limiting DEP authority on toxic site cleanups.This legislation was intended to help get our toxic sites cleaned up faster, but the court decision would allow toxic sites to be opened up for redevelopment without being truly safe for the future residents or businesses and the surrounding community," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club. This legislation helps clean up the many toxic sites that are abandoned or mothballed sitting there, leaking toxics into the environment. Whether its refineries, chemical plants, or industrial sites, these parcels are not only a blight on the landscape but directly impact public health and the communities around them.Many of the owners of these toxic properties get tax appeals to lower their tax burden so they can sit on these sites for decades as they are not required to clean them up until they are ready to sell or redevelop. However the recent ruling in /Des Champs Laboratories, INC., vs. Robert Martin/ would allow owners of toxic sites to sell the properties once they believe the site is clean, without meeting any standards or providing any proof to the DEP.The Court ruled the DEP does not have jurisdiction to require a property owner certify the site has been cleaned up or is pollution free before they sell it under the ISRA and SRRA.What the court said here is based on SRRA and ISRA as long as the site owner thinks there is a small amount of pollution and institutional controls work they do not have to certify the site is clean.

"The Court ruled the ISRA and SRRA legislation was passed to make it easier to develop sites, not to cleanup sites.Bad laws make for bad court decisions, putting the public health at risk and that is why we need Governor Christie to appeal this case to the Supreme Court," *said Jeff Tittel*. Even with increasing the accountability for polluters to pay for this cleanups, landowners could still evade a full cleanup of the site.As long as these property owner or polluter believes to the best of their knowledge that institutional controls will work or the amount of pollution left is a small amount, they do not have to clean up the site any further or certify the site is clean. 500 pounds or 55 gallons of toxic materials or 220 gallons of oil or other hydrocarbons could be considered clean and remain on site.It does not distinguish on the type of toxins so something extremely toxic could be allowed to remain on site including chromium, arsenic, or cyanide.

"The Legislature needs to close this glaring loophole that allows site owners off the hook and toxic contamination to remain on site," *said Jeff Tittel*.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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