Friday, January 30, 2009

Will New Jersey see Licensed Site Professionals?

What's that loud groaning sound under New Jersey's Capitol Dome?

No it's not Governor Corzine's latest list of budget cuts.

It's the formerly lean and mean (and now rotund) legislation introduced by the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly environmental committees back in June. The bills offered a creative method for private-sector environmental consultants to help state regulators jump start cleanups for many projects on the state's embarrassing backlog of 20,000 contaminated sites.

The legislation (S-1897 and A-2962) sought to create Licensed Site Professionals, a group of experienced environmental engineers and others, who would develop remedial plans, supervise cleanups and certify that they were performed in conformance with Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) technical requirements. It was based on a highly successful LSP program that's been operating in Massachusetts for 15 years.

In its debut hearings, the legislation was met with a howls from environmental groups who envisioned crooked consultants collecting fees from property owners for totally inadequate work.
Sure. New Jersey engineering firms don't have any ethics or professional pride. And they're certainly not concerned about opening the Star-Ledger one morning to find that the state DEP has revoked their LSP license for certifying false cleanup reports. That's great for business--especially in the current economic climate.

Unfortunately, in politics, you can't simply deal with reality, you have to deal with "perceptions." So, for the last seven months, the sponsors have been hashing out various amendments with the enviros, with the DEP, and with other affected parties, including industry and consulting organizations.

The result? The original 53-page bill has mushroomed to 130 pages and now, according to insiders, not only are the enviros expressing their usual outrage, but those who stood to benefit most from the original bill--business property owners and environmental consultants--have grievance lists of their own involving new taxes in the bill and the lack of clear direction to LSP's on how to proceed with cleanups and how to be sure the end has been reached.

Does the bill still have legs? We hope so, as there is no reasonable alternative in sight.

We should all have a better idea about the bill's future on Monday at 10 a.m. when the Senate Environment Committee takes public testimony (but will not vote) on the latest version of the legislation.

You can follow along, via your computer, by logging on to the Legislature's website at: Then select the link that says: "View or listen to live proceedings" and then click on "Senate Environment."

And be sure to let us know what you think by clicking on the "Comment" line (or box) below.

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