New Jersey Environmental Lawyers
Now more than ever, businesses are aware of their responsibility to be proper stewards of the environment for the good of their community. However, compliance with state and federal environmental regulations is so complex that even the most ardent supporters of environmental standards can find themselves in conflict with regulatory agencies. Companies who fail to perform due diligence can find themselves as a liable party for someone else’s negligence.
Environmental laws can be complicated. They are also always in flux, depending upon changing administrations. As a business owner, keeping up can be tremendously difficult. However, having an experienced lawyer on your side will provide you the knowledge you need to keep up with the ever-evolving changes in the law. A lawyer can answer any questions you might have about a current or pending policy.
What Do I Need to Know About Cleaning Up My Site?
Whenever you have a site that you have purchased or plan to do work on, you must be aware of the Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA). The original law was passed in 1983 as the Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act (ECRA). It was a first-of-its kind law that prompted the safe cleanup and removal of waste from numerous sites throughout the state. The ISRA made several changes to the law, namely, it removed New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) case managers from the role of administrators of clean up sites and placed it in the hands of Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs).
LSRPs inspect a site to ensure that it has been properly cleaned up according to applicable regulations and standards. Once satisfied, they will issue a response action outcome (RAO). The RAO replaced the former Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) closure decree, which is the Negative Declaration.
It is important that whenever you buy or sell a site that it has been properly treated to adhere to the ISRA. It is important to note that a company’s liability does not end upon them selling a property. They could be held liable for failing to clean their property when it was under their control, even if it is discovered years later.
Just as important are the people that you hire to handle the work of cleaning your site. You must make sure that they follow all proper procedures and guidelines. If they fail to measure up to those standards, you will have to make a change to ensure that they handle the job properly.
What is New Jersey’s Brownfields Process?
A brownfield is an underused piece of property that has not been developed due to previous concerns with a hazardous or dangerous substance. It is a property that has not been thoroughly cleaned of a potentially dangerous chemical. Given these concerns, those that choose to redevelop them must go through additional steps before they can go through the traditional building process.
The complications with redevelopment make them an ideal location for parks and other open spaces that local municipalities will take advantage of to increase green space in the area.
If you are looking to redevelop a brownfield, there are two main entities that you will have to interact with: the state and the local municipalities where the site is located. For New Jersey, there are two main protocols you must execute when conducting a due diligence assessment to accrue liability protections:
- Federal protocols: This all appropriate inquiry (AAI) must be conducted by any qualified environmental professional. It can be modified to meet state requirements by a licensed site remediation professional upon a business decision to proceed.
- State protocols: The state evaluation, called the diligent inquiry, must be conducted by a New Jersey licensed site remediation professional.
New Jersey designates multiple areas throughout the state as Brownfield Development Areas (BDA), and in doing so, assigns an advisor for each site. These advisors will help you through the process to ensure that state regulations are being met.
Once you get through the state approval process, you will also have to work with the local municipalities. Here is where you will have to work on zoning ordinances and determine what can be built upon the site. The state will have a say in some of those aspects as well.
While there are extra expenses and bureaucracy that you must deal with when it comes to redeveloping a brownfield site, the state has recognized that and is trying to encourage more developers to take on these neglected pieces of land. In 2020, the state passed the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act, which contained the Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive Program. This supplemented the existing Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act.
The new law understands the cumbersome expenses of site cleanup and tasks the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) with the power to assist. The law allows the NJEDA to award up to $50 million in tax credits annually for six years to those redevelopment projects that require financial assistance to address environmental contaminants or hazardous building material, such as asbestos.
How can I Handle Environmental Enforcement Actions?
Businesses have numerous rules and regulations that they must contend with, and it becomes even more complicated when environmental laws are involved. Adding to these complexities are the fact that there are environmental regulations at all levels of government, from the local municipality, to the country, to the state to the federal government.
When it comes to enforcement, the NJDEP is one of the most aggressive in the country. It will not only enforce its own regulations, but in certain circumstances, it will also enforce federal regulations as well, although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is capable of handling many of those responsibilities.
There are several regulations you may have to adhere to depending upon the type of business you own and the work you are conducting on your site. This is an area where you will need a qualified lawyer. Among the areas they can assist you includes superfund and state hazardous site enforcement proceedings and related insurance coverage disputes, including determination of responsible party for cleanup obligations.
Other laws that companies must be mindful of include Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the management of solid and hazardous waste under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and New Jersey’s solid and hazardous waste laws.
What Steps Should I Take to Secure Permits for My Site?
Before you do any type of work on a newly purchased site, you must go through the NJDEP and the EPA to mitigate any environmental concerns they might have. The permitting process can be a long-drawn-out affair if you do not conduct the proper evaluations and tests.
There are regulations that deal with air quality, water quality, and the condition of the land. While much of the regulations are common sense ones, there can be others that are vague and complicated. Even when you have the best of intentions and looking to minimize your carbon footprint, there are still certain regulators and procedures that they could miss.
It is important that you conduct certain due diligence to ensure that you are following state and federal requirements, contamination assessments, and site remediation issues, including those related to:
- Petroleum contamination
- Cleanup programs
- Dry-cleaning solvent contamination
- Superfund sites
- Hazardous waste
- Mold assessment/remediation
Even after you have built on your site, you will need to conduct routine audits of performance in various areas:
- Air emissions
- Wastewater discharges
- Hazardous waste management
- Occupational exposure
- Product development
- Worker and community right-to-know
- Reporting and disclosure obligations
A lawyer will help you conduct these ongoing maintenance and work with you to ensure that you maintain compliance. They will also provide updates to you on changing regulations and help to ensure that you do not run afoul of any new laws coming from the federal or state governments.
New Jersey Environmental Lawyers at Herold Law can Keep Your Business Compliant With Ever-Changing Environmental Laws
New Jersey has been at the forefront when it comes to environmental law, and as a result, has some of the most stringent regulations throughout the country. Our New Jersey environmental lawyers at Herold Law, P.A. can work with you to keep your business in compliance and abreast of any new changes to the law. Call us at 908-647-1022 or contact us online today to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Warren, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the state.