Tagged: New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Signs Environmental Justice Legislation

On September 18, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation intended to address the disproportionate environmental and public health impacts of pollution on overburdened communities. The legislation, versions of which have been proposed several times over the past decade, imposes additional requirements on companies seeking permits for new or expanded facilities under a variety of environmental statutes. It also requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to evaluate how the proposed permitted activities would impact those communities determined to be “overburdened” under the new law. Earlier this summer, marking the “Juneteenth” anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the United States, Governor Murphy had indicated his support for the legislation, which some environmental advocates have dubbed the “holy grail” of the environmental justice movement. Although critics of the law raised concerns about its effect on manufacturing and business investment in New Jersey, the bill passed the state legislature in late August, with votes of 49-28-1 in the state Assembly and 21-14 in the state Senate. The types of facilities covered by the new law include certain power plants, incinerators, sewage treatment plants, solid waste facilities, and landfills, as well as other facilities deemed to be “major sources of air pollution” (as determined by the federal Clean Air Act). Governor Murphy stated that,...

Susanne Peticolas Elected to Serve as President of the Justice Stewart G. Pollock Environmental American Inn of Court

Susanne Peticolas, a Director in the Environmental Department at Gibbons P.C., has been elected to serve as President of the Justice Stewart G. Pollock Environmental American Inn of Court (“Pollock Inn”) for the 2020-2022 term. The Pollock Inn is named for former Justice Stewart G. Pollock, who sat as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of New Jersey from 1979 to 1999 and was the author of numerous landmark environmental cases, including NJDEP v. Ventron. The Pollock Inn is one of only two American Inns of Court focused on environmental law. Previous Pollock Inn presidents include retired Judge Deanne Wilson of the New Jersey Superior Court, former NJDEP Commissioner Jerry English, and Stephanie Brand, Director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel. On being introduced as the new Pollock Inn president, Ms. Peticolas commented, “I am honored to be selected by my Inn colleagues to lead this wonderful organization, and I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of such extraordinarily talented predecessor presidents. I am committed to carrying on their legacy of leadership and promotion of the goal of the Inn – to foster the highest levels of professionalism through example, education, and mentoring.” The American Inns of Court organization grew out of discussions in the 1970s among the American members of...

Pre-SRRA? SRRA!: NJDEP Clarifies Applicability of SRRA to Pre-SRRA Cleanup Orders and Agreements

In a listserv published on September 10, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has once again made clear that the innovative requirements of the 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA), including the requirement to retain a licensed site remediation professional (LSRP), apply to any cleanup being performed under an administrative consent order (ACO) or remediation agreement (RA) that predates the enactment of SRRA on November 4, 2009. (SRRA was amended last year in what some commentators termed “SRRA 2.0.”) The NJDEP release, which supersedes a 2012 listserv on the same subject, confirms that (except for cleanups at certain federal facilities or sites being addressed under federal statutes) all parties conducting remediation work must retain an LSRP, even if they are subject to a pre-SRRA ACO or RA. NJDEP will hold in abeyance all ACO/RA requirements regarding departmental pre-approval of reports and work plans, as well as any deadlines contained in the order or agreement. Remediating parties must instead meet all regulatory and mandatory timeframes in NJDEP’s regulations. Other requirements in the ACO/RA will remain in effect, including those relating to a remediation funding source (RFS), RFS surcharges, and stipulated penalties. The new listserv also clarifies that SRRA overrides any termination provision in a pre-SRRA ACO or RA. NJDEP will not terminate an...

(State) Settlors Beware, Too: In Reversal, Third Circuit Declares that State Settlement Does Not Protect Against Federal Claims under CERCLA

Previously, the District of New Jersey ruled that a polluting party’s settlement agreement with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) provided contribution protection from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) claims based on costs incurred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) at the same site, even though USEPA was not a party to the settlement. In a prior blog post discussing that decision, we noted that the District Court’s decision was likely to be appealed. It was. On appeal, the Third Circuit considered the inquiry of “[w]hether a polluting party’s settlement with the State of New Jersey protects it from lawsuits seeking contributions toward expenditures made by the Federal Government on the same site,” and determined in a precedential opinion that, “the answer here is no.” CERCLA section 113(f)(2) provides that “[a] person who has resolved its liability to the United States or a State in an administrative or judicially approved settlement shall not be liable for claims for contribution regarding matters addressed in the settlement.” The District Court applied the analysis commonly adopted by other federal courts to determine the “matters addressed” of the previous settlement where the scope is not made explicit by the agreement itself. This analysis includes factors such as the location, time frame,...

New Jersey Files Six Lawsuits as Part of Its Environmental Justice Initiative

Last week, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced jointly the state’s filing of six environmental enforcement actions against alleged polluters in minority and low-income communities in various locations throughout the state. The filings are this administration’s latest action in its environmental justice initiative, as Gibbons has previously covered on this blog. The six lawsuits involve sites in Newark, East Orange, Camden, and two sites in Trenton. In these suits, the state brings claims under various New Jersey environmental statutes, including the Spill Compensation and Control Act, the Water Pollution Control Act, the Air Pollution Control Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Industrial Site Recovery Act, and the Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act. Per the joint press release, the lawsuits in Newark and Trenton “involve companies that released hazardous substances at their properties and refused to clean them up.” In Newark, the state seeks to require the defendants to investigate the extent of the contamination, to clean up the site, and to reimburse the state for over $500,000. For one of the Trenton sites, the state similarly seeks to compel the defendants to clean up the site and to reimburse the state for over $400,000. At the other Trenton site, the state...

Issues for NJ and NY Retailers and Food and Beverage Establishments to Consider Upon Reopening for Outdoor Sales and Service

On June 3, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 150 (the “Order”), which permitted, effective June 15, 2020, restaurants and other food and beverage establishments to offer on-site outdoor service. The Order also allowed municipalities to make outdoor shared spaces, such as sidewalks and streets, available to these establishments. Previously, these establishments had been limited to offering take-out services as a result of executive orders issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency. Simultaneous with the issuance of the Order, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (NJABC) issued a special ruling to create a COVID-19 Expansion of Premises Permit (the “Special Ruling”). We discussed the special ruling here. Similarly, the State of New York – on a region-by-region basis – is entering Phase 2 of its reopening plan in response to the COVID-19 health emergency, and the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) issued guidance to permit liquor licensees with on-premises service to resume outdoor, on-premises service of alcoholic beverages and food. We discussed the guidance here. In sum, both states have taken significant steps to provide relief to business establishments that have been hurt by the COVID-19 health emergency. These measures allow establishments to return to some semblance of normal operations. There are, however, still many unanswered...

NJ Governor Supports Additional NJDEP Permitting Requirements to Address Environmental Justice Concerns

On June 19, 2020, Governor Murphy announced his support for proposed legislation that would require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and permit applicants, to take additional steps prior to permits being issued for new or expanded facilities under a wide variety of state environmental statutes. The proposed legislation, which aims to protect those communities that historically have been most impacted by pollution from industrial and related activities, would require the NJDEP to publish and maintain a list of those communities determined to be “overburdened.” In the proposed legislation, “overburdened community” is defined as: “any census block group, as determined in accordance with the most recent United States Census, in which at least one half of the households qualify as low income households, and either: (1) at least 40 percent of the residents of the census block group identify as Black, African American, Hispanic or Latino, or as members of a State-recognized tribal community; or (2) at least 40 percent of the households in the census block group have limited English proficiency.” Prior to approval of covered permit applications, an applicant would be required to assess and prepare an environmental impact statement to outline both the existing environmental and health stressors already borne by the relevant community, as well as any additional impacts...

New Jersey Publishes Formal Stringent Drinking Water Standards for PFOA and PFOS

On June 1, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officially published health-based drinking water standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). These chemicals have received serious attention from the environmental community in the last several years due to increasing science that has confirmed the harmful impact of PFOA/PFOS on human health and the environment. These new more stringent rules, published in the New Jersey Register, set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) at: 14 parts per trillion for PFOA and 13 parts per trillion for PFOS. The DEP also added PFOA and PFOS to the state’s list of hazardous substances. Site remediation activities and regulated discharges to groundwater of PFOA and PFOS will now have to comply with these new standards. These new formal standards establish a regulatory framework that will provide consistency in remediation activities statewide. It is important to note that PFOA and PFOS are just two of potentially thousands of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS). To date Vermont and New Hampshire are the only other two states to set MCLs for PFAS. New York is working on similar standards. New Jersey issued a standard of 13 parts per trillion for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) in 2018. The federal government has not yet established MCLs for PFAS. While there...

Who’s in Charge Here?: Third Circuit Holds That Government Was Not an “Operator” of Jersey City Chromium Facility for Purposes of Superfund Liability

Federal courts have long struggled to determine the shape and boundaries of the wide liability net cast by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund law. In its recent decision in PPG Industries Inc. v. United States, the Third Circuit applied circuit and Supreme Court precedent to hold that the government’s influence over a chromite ore processing plant in Jersey City during World War I and World War II was not pervasive or intrusive enough to make the government a past “operator” of the plant and thus liable for cleanup costs. Prior to PPG’s 1954 acquisition of the plant (which it continued to operate until 1963), Natural Products Refining Corporation (NPRC) operated the plant, which processed chromite ore into various chromium chemicals, including sodium bichromate. During both World War I and World War II (when it designated the plant’s output as critical war materials, i.e., products manufactured for direct military use), the government regulated the production of chromium chemicals. Through a variety of price, labor, and production controls, the government sought to encourage increased production of these key chemicals. Those efforts, however, did not extend to direct control over day-to-day operations or to the use of government employees to run the facility. Moreover, while the government was aware...

NJABC Issues Order Extending 2019-2020 License Term

The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (the “Division”) issued an order on April 13, 2020, extending the 2019-2020 license term for all municipally-issued and state-issued licenses until September 30, 2020. Under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (the “Act”), local governing bodies (known as local issuing authorities) have the authority to issue and renew retail licenses. These retail licenses are in effect for a one-year term, beginning on July 1 of each year. In certain instances, the licenses can also be extended by the Division through ad interim permits. The licenses for the 2019-2020 term were set to expire on June 30, 2020. The Division, rather than local issuing authorities, issues and renews wholesale and manufacturing licenses and associated permits, known as State-issued licenses, which have the same license term as retail licenses. These State-issued licenses include, but are not limited to, Plenary, Limited, and Restricted Brewery Licenses and Plenary, Limited, and Craft Distillery Licenses. Some associated State-issued permits include, but are not limited to, Special Concessionaire Permits, Sampling Permits, Consumer Tasting Permits, and Off-Premise Storage of Records Permits. These State-issued licenses and permits were similarly set to expire on June 30, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 crisis and its associated consequences, the Division found that many licensees will be unable to renew their licenses by...