SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

[First Reprint]

ASSEMBLY, No. 1954

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:  DECEMBER 11, 2017

 

      The Senate Environment and Energy Committee favorably reports Assembly Bill No. 1954 (1R) with committee amendments. 

      As amended, this bill changes the laws governing financial assistance and grants for the remediation of contaminated sites from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund.  The bill eliminates the availability of grants and loans to persons who would otherwise not be eligible for assistance, but who remediate a site using innovative technology or who remediate to a limited restricted use standard.  The bill would also eliminate the availability of innocent party grants. 

      The bill establishes limitations on grants to municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities for projects in brownfield development areas.  In those areas and to those government entities, the bill authorizes grants of up to 75 percent of the total costs of the remedial action.  Further, the bill reduces the additional amount over the annual cap on financial assistance and grants otherwise in effect, which may be awarded in any one year to those government entities for projects in brownfield development areas, from $2,000,000 to $1,000,000.

      The bill also reduces the cumulative total amount of matching grants that may be awarded to municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities for projects involving the redevelopment of property for recreation and conservation purposes from $5,000,000 to $2,500,000 per year.

      The bill requires that at least 30 percent of the monies in the remediation fund be used for grants to municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities for projects that are not in brownfield development areas that have been contaminated by a discharge or a suspected discharge of a hazardous substance or hazardous waste.

      The bill reduces the cumulative annual cap on the maximum amount of financial assistance and grants that may be issued to a person from $1,000,000 to $500,000, and to municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities from $3,000,000 to $2,000,000 except for projects in brownfield development areas as noted above.  The bill changes the priority for the award of financial assistance or grants from the remediation fund.  First priority is given to sites that have been contaminated by a discharge or a suspected discharge of a hazardous substance or hazardous waste and where the discharge poses an imminent and significant threat to a drinking water source, to human health, or to a sensitive or significant ecological area; second priority is given to sites that are owned by a municipality in a brownfield development area; and third priority is given to sites in areas designated as Planning Area 1 (Metropolitan) and Planning Area 2 (Suburban) pursuant to the "State Planning Act."  The bill requires the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to adopt criteria, which must be met by a municipality, county, or redevelopment entity that applies for a grant, that the subject real property be developed within a three-year period from completion of the remediation.

      In addition to the caps or limitations in the law, the bill provides that an award of financial assistance or a grant for a preliminary assessment or site investigation of a contaminated site must be expended within two years after the date of the award, and an award of financial assistance or a grant for a remedial investigation of a contaminated site must be expended within five years after the date of the award.  If the financial assistance or grant is not expended within the time limits provided, the award would be cancelled.  In addition, no award would be approved until the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the EDA that it has expended or will expend the full amount of any previous financial assistance or grant awarded to the applicant for the same property.

      The committee amendments would:

      (1)  retain the availability of grants to qualifying persons who remediate to an unrestricted use standard for that part of a remediation that the person cannot otherwise fund by authorized methods;

      (2)  eliminate a cap on the dollar amount that may be awarded for a grant at any one site to municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities for projects in brownfield development areas for a remedial action and specify that grants for remedial action for those projects be made when there is a confirmed discharge;

      (3)  change the cumulative total amount of matching grants that may be awarded to municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities for projects involving the redevelopment of property for recreation and conservation purposes from $500,000 to $2,500,000 and eliminate the reduction that the maximum grant for an individual project in that category may receive, and continues to allow grants for up to 75 percent of the costs of remedial action;

      (4)  retain language in the current law that allows grants to municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities for projects involving the redevelopment of property for recreation and conservation purposes, for affordable housing, or for a remediation in a brownfield development area even if the public entity does not own the property;

      (5)  restore language that authorizes matching grants of up to $250,000 for up to 25 percent of the project costs to qualifying persons, municipalities, counties, and redevelopment entities who propose to perform a remedial action for an unrestricted use remedial action;

      (6)  eliminate a cap of $750,000 on grants to a municipality, county, or redevelopment entity at any one site;

      (7)  eliminate the requirement to allocate at least 25 percent of moneys in the fund for financial assistance or grants for projects in brownfield development areas and instead, provide for the allocation of at least 30 percent of the moneys in the fund for grants to municipalities, counties, or redevelopment entities for the preliminary assessment, site investigation, remedial investigation, or remedial action of a contaminated site not located in a brownfield development area;

      (8)  retain language in current law that does not allow financial assistance to persons who are able to establish a funding source except to a qualified person planning to use an unrestricted use remedial action, a person performing a remediation in an environmental opportunity zone, or a person voluntarily performing a remediation;     (9)  delete the availability in the current law for innocent party grants;

      (10)  delete the requirement that the developer be a public entity for a site owned by a municipality in a brownfield development area to receive second priority for funding under the law;

      (11)  delete the provisions that imposed, in addition to all other limitations, new caps and limitations on financial assistance and grants; and

      (12)  extend the time from three years to five years in which an award from the fund of financial assistance or a grant is required to be expended for a remedial investigation before it is cancelled.

      As amended, this bill is identical to Senate Bill No. 1237, as amended and reported by the committee.