Tagged: New Jersey

Unraveling Environmental Legal Complexities: Lessons from the Clarios Case and RIP Waivers

A recent February 5, 2024, decision by the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division delivered a significant blow to Clarios, LLC (Clarios), a car battery manufacturer facing environmental scrutiny at its New Brunswick plant. This recent decision has echoed through the environmental legal landscape, leaving companies contemplating the use of Remediation in Progress Waivers (RIP waivers) with critical questions and a renewed sense of caution. The case, far from offering definitive answers, instead highlights the intricate interplay between property rights, environmental stewardship, and the nuances of due process protections. Moreover, the court’s denial of Clarios’s request to postpone remediation has broader implications for scenarios involving joint liability agreements and property transactions, highlighting the complex challenges associated with RIP waivers. By dissecting the court’s reasoning and its implications, we gain valuable insights into the limitations and prudent utilization of RIP waivers, ensuring responsible environmental practices and mitigating unintended legal consequences. Decoding the Chain of Title of the RIP Waiver The complex history of the RIP waiver granted to Clarios in 2007 finds its roots in the ownership transition of the site. Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC (Delphi), the former owner, had been manufacturing automobile batteries at the location. In 2006, Delphi sold the property to Johnson Controls Battery Group, Inc., a corporate predecessor of Clarios, triggering a sequence of...

Landmark Flood Disclosure Bill Now Law in New Jersey, Applies to Both Commercial and Residential Property

On June 30, 2023, the New Jersey General Assembly unanimously passed Bill S3110/A4783, which will require sellers of real property and landlords to make specific disclosures regarding a commercial or residential property’s flood risk. The bill was amended to concur with the recommendations of Governor Murphy’s May 8, 2023, Conditional Veto Statement and was enacted into law upon passage. New Jersey was previously one of less than half of the states in the country that did not require any flood disclosures for real estate transactions. Landlord & Seller Flood Disclosure Requirements Specifically, Senate Bill No. 3110 requires landlords and sellers of commercial or residential real property to disclose to prospective tenants and buyers if a property is located in an area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a Special Flood Hazard Area (known as the 100-year flood plain) or Moderate Risk Flood Hazard Area (known as the 500-year flood plain), and if the property has suffered flood damage in the past to the owner’s knowledge. Sellers are also required to disclose additional facts related to the property’s flood insurance and flood damage history. Additionally, landlords are required to notify tenants of the possible availability of flood insurance via the National Flood Insurance Program. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA) is...

Governor Murphy Announces First-in-the-Nation Environmental Justice Rules

On Monday, April 17,  2023, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the adoption of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Environmental Justice Rules (EJ Rules) implementing New Jersey’s landmark Environmental Justice (EJ) Law signed in 2020. The EJ Law and implementing rules are the first in the nation aimed at reducing pollution in historically overburdened communities that have been subjected to a disproportionately high number of environmental and public health stressors. In his announcement, Governor Murphy stated, “As we enter Earth Week 2023, the final adoption of DEP’s EJ Rules will further the promise of environmental justice by prioritizing meaningful community engagement, reducing public health risks through the use of innovative pollution controls, and limiting adverse impacts that new pollution-generating facilities can have in already vulnerable communities.” DEP Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette added that, “With the adoption of the nation’s first EJ Rules, New Jersey is on a course to more equitably protect public health and the environment we share.” Under the new rules, which are effective immediately, state environmental officials considering permit requests of eight specific types of facilities must include impacts to residents of affected communities in their decision-making process. The eight types of facilities that must comply with the new EJ Rules are: gas-fired power plants, cogeneration facilities, and other...

New Jersey Adopts Private Construction Inspection Bill

On January 5, 2023, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Assembly Bill 573, which authorizes private inspections under the State Uniform Construction Code (UCC) Act, upon the satisfaction of certain conditions (the “Act”). The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) now has six months to propose rules to effectuate the provisions of the Act and three months thereafter to adopt those rules. The Act is a result of efforts throughout the commercial real estate industry to address the growing shortage of available municipal code inspectors and recent increased demand for inspections due to the high frequency of construction activity throughout the state, as well as an ongoing backlog due to COVID-19 staffing shortages. There is consensus within the industry that the processes codified within the Act will minimize project disruptions and delays and create a more streamlined construction inspection process, in order to expedite the timely construction and occupancy of inclusionary housing and non-residential development alike. The Act creates a new process by which private inspectors can perform required construction inspections under the UCC. Once work undertaken pursuant to a construction permit is ready for any required inspection under the UCC, the owner, agent, or other person in charge of the work (collectively, the “Owner”) shall notify the enforcing agency (presumably the...

New Jersey Adopts 2021 International Building Code and Grace Period for Permit Applications

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has recently amended the Building Subcode of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) to incorporate the 2021 Edition of the International Building Code (IBC). Builders, developers, and others currently applying for construction permits should be aware of the provision within the UCC that provides for a grace period from application of the newly adopted regulations until March 6, 2023. On April 18, 2022, DCA posted in the New Jersey Register proposed amendments to the Building Subcode, located within the New Jersey Administrative Code at N.J.A.C. 5:23-3.14, to incorporate the 2021 Edition of the IBC. The model codes for buildings, which include residential and commercial structures, energy, fire protection, mechanical, and fuel gas, are published by the International Code Council, and DCA proposes and adopts the model codes as part of the UCC. Since 1996, DCA has undertaken a review of each subsequent model code edition and has proposed and adopted the new edition of the national model codes. The most recently adopted amendments to the UCC’s Building Subcode incorporate the 2021 edition of the IBC. The Building Subcode amendments were adopted on September 6, 2022. Of particular importance to builders and developers, the UCC contains a grace period provision at N.J.A.C. 5:23-1.6, which provides that for a period...

Appellate Division Rejects Judicial Review Upon Assertion of Good-Cause Defenses to an NJDEP Spill Act Directive Prior to Imposition of Direct Oversight

On January 9, 2023, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued its decision in In re N.J. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. Direct Oversight Determination, in which the court addressed whether good-cause defenses asserted by Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC (“Solvay”) to a statewide directive had to be decided by a court before the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) could place it under direct supervision. Solvay has owned and operated a manufacturing plant along the Delaware River since 1990 (the “Site”). When Solvay was informed of sampling data establishing the presence of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), two specific per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), so-called “forever chemicals,” in the area near the Site, Solvay began investigating and remediating PFNA and PFOA that might be attributable to the Site. In September 2013, at the NJDEP’s request, Solvay entered into the NJDEP’s site remediation program and hired a licensed site remediation professional (LSRP) to oversee its remediation efforts. In March 2019, the NJDEP issued a Statewide PFAS Directive to Solvay and other entities, in which the NJDEP determined that Solvay is responsible for PFNA and PFOA contamination arising from the Site, which has contaminated the Site and surrounding areas, including the state’s natural resources. The Statewide PFAS Directive provided detailed steps to be taken by...

NJDEP Posts Guidance for Prospective Purchasers of Contaminated Sites to Obtain Adjustments to Direct Oversight Requirements

On September 9, 2022, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued its Pre-Purchase Administrative Consent Order Guidance through the NJDEP’s Contaminated Site Remediation & Redevelopment Program. The guidance document explains how prospective purchasers of contaminated sites subject to Direct Oversight can obtain a Pre-Purchase Administrative Consent Order (ACO), allowing for adjustments to Direct Oversight requirements. Under the Site Remediation Reform Act, if the person responsible for conducting remediation of a contaminated site fails to complete the investigation and remediation within mandatory timeframes, the NJDEP automatically places the site into Direct Oversight. The Direct Oversight requirements are a more prescriptive remediation process for the person responsible for conducting remediation. Some of the Direct Oversight requirements include: NJDEP selection of the remedial action for the site; NJDEP approval of each document submitted by a licensed site remediation professional; establishment of a remediation funding source in the amount needed to complete remediation; performance of a remedial action feasibility study for NJDEP approval; and compliance with an NJDEP-approved public participation plan. Once a potential buyer of a site closes on a contaminated property subject to Direct Oversight, the potential buyer becomes a person “in any way responsible” for remediating the site pursuant to the Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”). By entering into a Pre-Purchase ACO,...

NJ Seeks to Expand Reach of the Spill Act in PCB Contamination Suit Against Monsanto and Others

On August 4, 2022, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued a press release announcing a lawsuit of sweeping, breathtaking scope against Monsanto, Solutia, and Pharmacia ─ all linked to the original Monsanto (“Old Monsanto”), which reorganized its businesses into three separate corporations in the late 1990s ─ seeking natural resource damages (NRDs) for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination across the entire state of New Jersey. Old Monsanto formerly operated a large industrial facility in Bridgeport, an unincorporated community in Logan Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey (the “Bridgeport Site”). In addition to the claims for statewide PCB contamination, the complaint seeks NRDs and other relief in connection with the Bridgeport Site. The suit alleges the three defendants contaminated the area in and around the Bridgeport Site through discharges of many chemicals, including PCBs, over decades of operations at that site. PCBs are a class of toxic synthetic organic chemical compounds that enter the environment by escaping their intended applications, passing into water bodies, sediment, and soils. In a statement announcing the suit, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said that “PCBs contamination has harmed natural resources and threatened the health of humans and wildlife in every corner of New Jersey . . . includ[ing] many environmental justice communities ─ communities throughout our State that...

Legislative Update: NJ Legislature Passes Proposed Legislation Extending Outdoor Dining to 2024

On June 29, the New Jersey Legislature unanimously passed Bill S2364 ScaAa (2R), which would extend the outdoor dining and drinking privileges allowed under P.L. 2021, c.15, from November 30, 2022 to November 30, 2024. As amended, the bill would extend by two years, until 11:59 P.M. on November 30, 2024, the time period during which certain restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries would be allowed to use a public sidewalk or outdoor spaces which they own or lease and are located either on or adjacent to their business premises as an area for the purpose of conducting food and beverage sales. Current law authorizing such uses expires on November 30, 2022. The bill would also provide that the use of tents, canopies, umbrellas, tables, chairs, or other fixtures be deemed a permitted use for the time period from the first day of April through the close of business on November 30 for each additional year in which this law is in effect. Any administrative rule or regulation that limits the use of these fixtures to 180 days or less would be inapplicable during the effective time of the law. Any administrative rule or regulation governing the use of outdoor fixtures on private or public property, or right of way designated by a municipality, between the...

NJDEP Issues Rule Proposal Implementing Environmental Justice Legislation

On June 6, 2022, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued its proposed rule (“Rule Proposal”) implementing regulations under the groundbreaking Environmental Justice Law (“EJ Law”) signed by Governor Phil Murphy in September of 2020, which we reported on at that time. The EJ Law requires the NJDEP to evaluate the environmental and public health impacts of certain facilities on vulnerable communities (referred to as Overburdened Communities (“OBCs”)) when reviewing certain permit applications. We also reported that on October 22, 2020, the NJDEP began the public process of developing regulations to implement the requirements under the EJ Law. The Rule Proposal was the culmination of an extensive and lengthy public process that included numerous meetings with various stakeholders. The next step is a 90-day public comment period expiring on September 4, 2022, during which time the NJDEP will hold four public hearings in the month of July. In the EJ Law, the Legislature had determined that all residents of the state of New Jersey, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, have a right to live, work, learn, and recreate in a clean and healthy environment. The Legislature further found that the OBCs have been, and continue to be, subject to a disproportionately high number of environmental and public health stressors,...