Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NJ Licensed Site Professional bill's encore

It's hard to believe but legislation designed to breathe life into New Jersey's near moribund site cleanup program (20,000 contaminated properties and counting) is up in the Legislature's two environmental committees on Thursday for the fourth time since June.

And despite the fact that the legislation (S-1897 and A-2962) has been amended again and again to meet objections raised by the Sierra Club and others, there's no guarantee that it will get out of committee this time either.

Wait a minute. Isn't this the bill that DEP Commissioner Mark
Mauriello and his predecessor, Lisa Jackson, testified is essential to get cleanups going? Yes it is.

Isn't this the bill that mirrors a program in Massachusetts that has spurred the cleanup of hundreds of polluted sites over the past 15 years? Yes, again.

Isn't it a bill personally sponsored by the powerful chairmen of the environmental committees in both houses--Senator Bob Smith (left) and Assemblyman John McKeon? Yup.

And backed by the governor?

Right, again.

So what's the problem?

Jeff Tittel doesn't like it.

Actually, it's just that simple.

Jeff Tittle leads the state's Sierra Club, an organization you'd think would be screaming bloody murder over the fact that 20,000 sites contaminated sites have been virtually ignored for years.

Isn't this, after all, the same organization that doesn't want a single house going up within hundreds of yards of certain streams? Don't 20,000 aging and possibly leaking contaminated sites pose a far greater threat to groundwater?

So what's Jeff's problem?

He says that the legislation, which will allow the DEP to license environmental engineers to oversee individual cleanups, under the state's oversight, puts the fox in charge of the hen house.

Jeff's apparently convinced that the owners and managers of highly respected engineering firms are going to risk their professional reputations and their firms' million-dollar-operations by cutting corners for clients.

What are the chances of that ever happening? If the bill ever gets passed, one imagines some folks actually could try it. But the bill's significant penalties, combined with DEP oversight and public censure, all combine to argue against it.

But what if some actually did? What if an astonishing 10% of those 20,000 sites did not utilize the very best cleanup technologies and didn't remove every molecule of contamination?

In fact, let's pose the worst case scenario. What if 10% of all the cleanups turn out to be absolute frauds?

Well, wouldn't that still leave 18,000 sites cleaned up? And available for new use--many in municipalities desperate for new business, new jobs and new ratables?

Isn't that a gamble worth taking? The DEP and the governor and the environmental leaders in the Legislature think so.

But Jeff Tittle doesn't. And for some reason, on issues like these, his opinion seems to be the only one that counts.

What do you think? Let us know in the "comment" section below.


Op-Ed: LSP stands for ‘Lets Stay Polluted’
Op-Ed: New Jersey needs licensed site professionals
Editorial: An imperfect but needed cleanup solution

Jeff Tittel, Jersey's Enviro-Vigilant Go-To Guy

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