If I lived in NJ, I’d be really, really upset about this. Because the state has so many chemical plants, and the companies pour so much money into elections, I’d have to worry about whether this is de facto deregulation — not to mention the probable participation of organized crime, who already has such a wonderful track record with solid waste:
With more Superfund sites than any state in the country and more than 16,000 hazardous-waste cleanups pending, New Jersey’s industrial landscape has long made it a punch line of pollution jokes.
But now that state environmental officials are trying to trim the backlog by handing control to the private sector, they are facing a backlash from both the state’s environmentalists and its industrial and chemical companies.
Under plans still being reviewed, state-licensed environmental professionals will be granted day-to-day autonomy, relegating state bureaucrats to the role of auditors on the majority of cases.
Environmental activists fear that leaving more of the cleanup to the private sector will lower standards and increase the risk to public health.
“The system we had was broken. There wasn’t enough oversight or enforcement,” said New Jersey Sierra Club president Jeff Tittel. “But the question becomes: Now, will there be any oversight? We’re heading in a really scary direction.”
Groups representing oil, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies are lobbying to reduce what they describe as a still-untenable degree of bureaucracy within the system.
The overhaul is modeled after a system introduced in Massachusetts in 1994, which is garnering increased interest around the country as state budgets shrink and politicians begin to question the cost of managing years-long environmental cleanups.
In New Jersey, cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection’s budget – 13 percent since 2009 – have left it unable to continue in its role as case manager for hazardous-waste sites, said Deputy Commissioner David Sweeney.