Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act
In 1998, New Jersey legislators passed the Brownfields and Contaminated Site Remediation Act (the Brownfields Act) to promote the clean-up and redevelopment of environmentally impacted properties throughout the state. These properties are known as brownfields.
A brownfield must meet three criteria:
- Former or current industrial or commercial property.
- Currently abandoned, vacant, or underutilized.
- Known or suspected to be contaminated with hazardous substances that could pose a health risk.
Examples of brownfield properties include former manufacturing or processing facilities, dumps, landfills, gas stations, transportation companies, and dry cleaners.
Legislators believed these properties had no productive use and failed to generate property taxes or jobs, thereby creating a financial drain on municipalities. They also believed the sites were eyesores, unsafe, a health risk from contamination, and attracted crime.
As a solution, legislators created and passed the Brownfields Act to help municipalities and private developers overcome many of the obstacles related to these properties.
Identifying Brownfield Sites
Through their planning and zoning authorities, the Brownfields Act encourages New Jersey municipalities to identify and classify brownfields in their communities, both public and private. It provides resources for marketing, selling, and redeveloping the properties.
Assessing Clean-Up Required
New Jersey municipalities can receive grants covering 100 percent of the cost of identifying the degree and type of contamination on sites owned by the city. This assessment also includes a recommendation for remediating the property safely for its proposed redevelopment use.
Working With the State
The Brownfields Act encourages the state to make it easy for developers and municipalities to clean up affected sites. Legal counsel for the municipality or developer should review the Memorandum of Agreement, which is the contract between the entity and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to work together to remediate a property.
This agreement also protects the developer or municipality from future liability if unknown or unsuspected contamination is discovered later. Execution of the contract must occur before the redeveloper can receive loans, grants, or other incentives to clean up and build on the property.
Financing the Development
The Brownfields Act makes grants, low-interest loans, and tax incentives available to municipalities and private developers to clean up the sites. The legislature created the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund that provides both municipalities and developers grants to investigate sites and low-interest loans to redevelop them.
Additional incentives are available through the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, including tax abatements. Funds are also offered through the New Jersey Commerce and Economic Growth Commission, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and other state and federal funding sources. Legal counsel can guide developers and municipalities through these complex but favorable financial arrangements.
The 2020 New Jersey Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive Program
In early 2021, the New Jersey governor signed into law the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020. This act is a $14 billion package of incentive programs to encourage job growth, property development/redevelopment, community partnerships, and other economic development initiatives throughout the state.
Part of this act includes the Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive program. In general, the program allows the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to award up to $50 million in tax credits annually for six years to brownfield redevelopment projects. Consult with legal counsel for more details, as many regulations are still being worked out.
Why Redevelop a Brownfield?
There are many benefits to cleaning up and developing a brownfield site, including the following:
- Reducing the risk of health concerns related to contaminated sites for both humans and wildlife.
- Improving water, air, and ground quality.
- Beautifying a community; many brownfields are developed into community parks, playgrounds, or green spaces.
- Improving property values; decreasing neighborhood blight.
- Taking advantage of infrastructure, such as roads and sewers, which is often already in place.
- Decreasing vandalism, trespassing, drug dealing, and crime surrounding the brownfield site.
- Adding to job creation and tax bases. Many brownfield sites are developed into retail centers, office parks, hotels, restaurants, apartment buildings, and mixed-use spaces.
- Being a catalyst for other development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Leveraging governmental incentives, low-interest loans, and grants to reduce the costs of redeveloping a brownfield.
Keeping in Compliance With Environmental Law
Every company, especially manufacturing and similar entities, must abide by environmental law and guidelines, both federal and state. Between regulatory agencies and community watchdogs, companies face intense scrutiny and pressure to be good environmental stewards.
Although being a good green company is essential, it is also a daunting task. Regulations, legislation, and environmental laws often have complex requirements that are subject to frequent change. Companies mean well, but they may not always have the knowledge and resources to keep abreast of ever-changing laws and regulations.
A good line of defense against breaching environmental compliance is for companies to engage legal counsel that focuses on environmental law. This allows them to run their businesses with the confidence that they are good stewards of the environment. Legal counsel can also mitigate the company’s liability and exposure and help rectify any environmental issues that may arise.
In addition, legal counsel can help with these other critical environmental considerations:
- Permitting related to air, water, and waste.
- Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA) and Brownfield Act counseling and compliance.
- Site remediation services: contractor negotiations, insurance, and regulatory compliance.
- Policy change notifications and guidance on their impact on remediation projects.
- Brownfield project management, assistance with finding the best incentives available, and protecting liability for environmental violations.
- Litigation, when needed, relating to insurance disputes, clean-up obligations, and alleged federal and state violations of environmental laws.
New Jersey Brownfield Redevelopment Resources
There are valuable sites for more information on the redevelopment of brownfields.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection keeps a list of Known Contaminated Sites. It is organized into three categories: active sites with known contamination, pending sites with known contamination, and closed sites with remediated contamination.
Developers interested in potential sites can search the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Brownfield Development Area (BDA) website for available locations.
The New Jersey Department of State also has an online, searchable multiple-listing service to view brownfield sites for sale. It is also a good idea to contact the economic development person or department of municipalities directly. They will know what is available in their location.
New Jersey Environmental Lawyers at Herold Law Keep Your Business Compliant With Environmental Regulations
Our knowledgeable New Jersey environmental lawyers at Herold Law can help your company operate within the law and minimize exposure to violations. Whether you are currently planning your environmental stewardship strategy or you have been charged with an offense, we can help. Call us today at 908-679-5011 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Warren, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout New Jersey