Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What do you want from NJ's LSRP program?

One of the environmental priorities of NJ Gov. Chris Christie's administration is to get thousands of contaminated sites across the state restored to productive uses (not to mention to the tax rolls).

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin says the best vehicle for this is the state's new Licensed Site Remediation Professional program (LSRP) which shifts greater responsibility for the remediations from state regulators to licensed engineering consultants.

Although the program is still in its early implementation stage, more than 300 consultants already have been issued temporary LSRP licenses by the DEP and 400 more are in the queue.

Nicholas De Rose Guest blogger, Nicholas De Rose, was an early advocate of the LSRP program. Nick offered legislators and staff with his practical perspective as the legislation that created the program went through numerous amendments on its way to adoption.

Nick is Senior Principal at
Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc. and serves as president of the
NJ Licensed Site Remediation Professionals  Association.

What do you want from New Jersey's LSRP program?

One of the realities for anyone who is looking to takes sides, pro or con, regarding New Jersey’s Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) program is that if they are honest in their analysis, they will find that the LSRP Program and the regulatory reforms of the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) provides something for each stakeholder with an interest in New Jersey’s Remediation Program.  Unfortunately, the outcome of this ‘King Solomon’ approach is that while the LSRP baby has been claimed by its rightful guardians, there are many who have not accepted this reality.

Change can be frightening and from many conversations I have had with folks in Massachusetts, the transformation to their Licensed Site Professional (LSP) program was also characterized by an initial period of fear, uncertainty and politicizing.   Since we are not inventing the wheel in New Jersey, we have been able to incorporate many lessons learned in Massachusetts to ensure that New Jersey’s LSRP Program will be a success.   New Jersey’s LSRP program is also going to be successful because it offers bona fide improvements for every stakeholder.  Which leads me back to my original question – “What do you want from New Jersey’s LSRP Program?”

Increased environmental protection
?  It’s here.  Had anyone heard of regulatory or mandatory time frames in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) remediation program before the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) of 2009?  The answer has to be a resounding “No.”  With the passage of the SRRA – all cleanups in the State must move ahead – there is no longer   the option of moving along voluntarily.  We also have new regulations that rightfully prioritize addressing Immediate Environmental Concerns (IEC).  These two reforms alone under SRRA will result in more cleanups being done then ever before.  Furthermore, resources are now being prioritized to address IEC conditions that pose unacceptable risk.  (Note: in fact NJDEP has established IEC levels based on chronic risk exposure in many cases – rather than acute exposure.  Something that one can argue should be corrected to ensure that the public is not misinformed regarding their actual risks.)

Changes to NJDEP’s overly prescriptive regulatory process? 
Yes, concerns in this key area from responsible parties representing New Jersey’s businesses and corporations as well as from environmental professionals were heard.  Both groups recognize that spending available resources on long term studies can sometimes be wasteful with no added protection to New Jersey’s citizens and the state’s environment.  While NJDEP initiated many remediation policies that led the United States in the early days of the field of remediation, an argument can be made that over the last 15 years, NJDEP has stopped progressing in the scientific field of remediation.  As an example of this, there is very little discussion in New Jersey’s Technical Requirements for Site Remediation (N.J.A.C. 7:26 E) regarding the use of the Conceptual Site Model (CSM). 

 The CSM uses terms such as ‘source’, ‘exposure pathway’ and ‘receptor’ and the application of the CSM is one of the most effective ways to ensure that risks to human health and the environment are properly assessed and communicated.  This approach supports identifying appropriate remedial goals for cleanup rather than prescribing detailed methodologies which should be left to the Professional Judgment of the LSRP.   In order to support the new regulatory framework of the LSRP Program, SRRA mandates changes to NJDEP’s regulatory framework and establishes a stakeholder process for the development of technical guidance.   With the formation of the LSRP Steering Committee initial steps toward these changes are underway.

An expedited cleanup process to support economic development? 
In addition to ensuring that cleanups would progress by establishing mandatory time frames, the establishment of LSRP Program brings to bear additional personnel to oversee remediation cases that have been otherwise stagnant due to overwhelmed NJDEP case managers and staff.  For Brownfields developers, the ability to move cleanups along expeditiously is worth real dollars as “time is money”.  And for the environment, moving quickly is an effective way to increase restoration of contaminated soil and ground water.  Once these concepts were understood and properly conveyed in SRRA, the legislation was approved in both New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support.

I congratulate our leaders in the legislature, NJDEP and the Christie Administration for supporting the LSRP program.   To NJDEP Commissioner Martin I would like to emphasize the need to appoint the LSRP Licensing Board as the critical next step towards ensuring program success.

I would also like to acknowledge those with informed moderate perspectives from all stakeholders including environmental professionals, attorneys, business organizations, community organizations and environmental organizations.  And as a reminder, there were important reasons for the inclusion of a three year transition period in SRRA before the establishment of the final LSRP Program.   This transition period presents the opportunity for constructive input and dialog to ensure success which appears to also be necessary to overcome unrestrained and often misinformed or blatantly self serving speculation.  

I look forward to continued dialog and for the opportunity to share my views on the LSRP Program as we move forward.

Nicholas De Rose, L.S.R.P. 
Senior Principal, Langan Engineering and Environmental Services 
President, NJ Licensed Site Professionals Association

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