NJ Site Remediation Program Reforms - Efficiency or Over-Regulation?
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP") Site Remediation program is undergoing major reforms associated with the September 2006 promulgation of the Grace Period Rules. Conditional approvals have been eliminated, and comment letters have been replaced with notices of deficiency, notices of violation and notices of intent to terminate. Increased resort to internal dispute resolution procedures is encouraged. The jury is out on whether the changes will streamline the program or simply create new bottlenecks, e.g., as parties appeal case manager decisions to the Technical Review Panel. However, these reforms are not the only changes in store for a program long plagued by processing delays. For example, the program will soon release proposed regulations governing enhanced public notification and information. These regulations will require a variety of notices and information for municipalities and surrounding property owners, enforcement of which may delay case processing as responsible parties adjust to the new rules. The long-awaited regulations proposing soil cleanup standards (replacing the current soil cleanup criteria) should also see the light of day in 2007 and, if cleanup levels change, could also delay case processing. Meanwhile, internal resource adjustments have been promised to enhance program efficiency, and increased use of private professionals to perform case reviews could be considered during the coming year, though not likely without new legislation.