NJDEP Site Remediation Implements Steps to Increase Permit Efficiency
One perennial criticism leveled at the Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) is that it takes too long to issue permits. There have been a long list of initiatives intended to ensure that the NJDEP makes permit decisions which are predictable and timely. Indeed, Commissioner Martin has repeatedly commented on the need to ensure that NJDEP perform efficiently and focus on servicing all stakeholders – including applicants, and included this goal in his 2010 Vision Statement for the department. At long last, NJDEP appears to be taking concrete steps to implement efficiencies in the permit process. On January 27, 2011, NJDEP announced that it would begin to tackle this problem by changing the way it processes the most common land-use permits for contaminated sites and landfill closures.
Effective February 1, 2011, applications for land use permits such as Freshwater Wetlands, Flood Hazard and CAFRA will be processed by a special unit within the Site Remediation Group. The Office of Dredging and Sediment Technology has dealt with many of these issues over the years and will now process all land use permits for remediation projects ranging from site clean-up to landfill closure.
The lack of timely permits can be especially frustrating for potentially responsible parties engaged in the process of site investigation and remediation. When clean-ups involve environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, flood hazard areas or riparian lands, companies can be whipsawed between the need to quickly investigate and respond to a perceived threat to human health or the environment and delays while approved clean-up plans undergo environmental permit review.
NJDEP’s announcement promises some relief to this problem. Although this change in procedures is not the “one stop shopping” which the regulated community often seeks, if it proves successful, it can only help speed the pace of clean-ups and may help return distressed real property to productive use.