LSRPA Featured in Three Articles in NJ BIZ
Monday, November 17, 2014 07:36 PM

LSRPs are gaining comfort in the process

November 03. 2014 11:15AM
By Joshua Burd


Mark Pedersen has met plenty of licensed site remediation professionals — and he recalls some saying “they're very nervous about the responsibilities that they have” under a 5-year-old state program aimed at giving them control of environmental cleanups.

As it turns out, he found that reassuring.

“That was very comforting to me, because they took very seriously the responsibilities that they have and the license that they have,” said Pedersen, the Department of Environmental Protection's assistant commissioner for site remediation.

Not entirely surprising for a state that has turned over thousands of polluted sites to private-sector consultants, under what's known as the Licensed Site Remediation Professional program.

Those experts are now managing cleanups across New Jersey, largely without requiring DEP approval to move through the process.

Pedersen said it's only natural to tread lightly at first, given concerns over liability, but it's only a matter of time before the so-called LSRPs are more at ease.

“One of the things I think that we're going to notice over time is the more that we work with the LSRPs, they more comfortable they're going to get in their decision-making and their application of their professional judgment,” he said.

That's not to say there's no DEP oversight. Pedersen said LSRPs still submit documents every step of the way, and the agency audits about 10 percent of the qualified professionals every year.

So far, the work of the consultants seems to speak for itself. Stephen Posten, the board president of the New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association, said LSRPs have issued about 4,700 documents signifying the end of remediation.

Only eight of those documents have been invalidated by the DEP, he said, and that's because they were prepared by a temporary LSRP who never went on to seek a permanent license.

“It's a pretty solid endorsement of the fact that people are on the same wavelength in terms of the documentation that needs to be submitted and the nature of the work that needs to be submitted to get to the finish line,” Posten said.

Still, some LSRPs have expressed concerns about liability issues as the program matured. Posten said those concerns depend on the type of business: consultants who “work for billion-dollar engineering companies tend to feel like their work would be covered just like a professional engineer's work would be covered under a corporation's errors and omissions policy.”

“I think at bigger firms there's less concern about the LSRP liability,” he said. “That is usually not the case in sole proprietorships or small businesses that don't have that type of coverage.”

Posten noted that there actually are multiple insurance companies that “either already offer or are planning to offer policies to protect LSRPs from some of the perceived liabilities.”

Sue Boyle, the association's executive director, said the law that created the LSRP program “is very specific about what responsible parties are responsible for versus what LSRPs are responsible for.”

“And the association is very diligent in watching a lot of the information coming out of the department and … out of the licensing board to make sure that if action is being taken against a party, it's being taken against the correct party,” Boyle said.

E-mail to: [email protected]
On Twitter: @joshburdnj

By the numbers
The New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professional program:

Total active DEP cases

Total active LSRP cases

Total number of Response Action Outcomes (final remediation stage) issued by LSRPs

Total LSRP cases closed

Total LSRP cases closed in 2014

Total number of LSRP cases initiated

LSRP cases initiated in 2014

Source: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association

Green teams

Putting environmental cleanup in the hands of private sector is paying dividends

November 03. 2014 11:15AM
By Joshua Burd


If you're in Stephen Posten's line of work, this is what you call a success story.

AMEC Vice President Stephen Posten.

When the owner of a small manufacturing building in Ocean Township became interested in selling the property recently, environmental consultants went to work. They identified a potential area of contamination outside the facility — a “blow-down area” for water discharged by a compressor — and did sampling to investigate the site.

What they found was no contamination after all, concluding the work in just six months.

“That immediately allowed the property transaction to move ahead,” said Posten, a Franklin-based vice president with the engineering firm AMEC. “In the older days that would have been unheard of. You would have submitted your preliminary assessment report … but it wouldn't be unusual for it to take six months to two years or more for you to hear back from the (Department of Environmental Protection).

By “older days,” he means before the state's Licensed Site Remediation Professional program was created, putting environmental cleanups largely in the hands of private-sector experts. That was five years ago — and stakeholders say the program is now coming of age and providing the benefits that consultants and property owners have long searched for.

“Many sites had been languishing in the pre-LSRP days,” said Posten, who also serves as board president of the New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association. “And I think what this LSRP program has done is take many of those sites out of that gray zone and moved them ahead through site closure.”

While the Ocean Township site had no contamination, the program has allowed the DEP to turn over thousands of polluted sites to LSRPs. And the Site Remediation Reform Act, which created the program in 2009, also put the owners of polluted properties and other so-called responsible parties on the clock to hire LSRPs and move their cleanups forward.

Those private-sector consultants can now manage the remediation and, in most cases, don't require DEP approval to move from one step of the process to the next.

The program is helping the agency clear its backlogged caseload, while streamlining environmental cleanups in a state where such work took notoriously long in the past.

“There have been a lot of closeouts of some of the simpler cases by the LSRPs,” said Mark Pedersen, the DEP's assistant commissioner for site remediation. “But we've also seen some closeouts of some of the more complex cases that have been out there.”

Pedersen said the department currently has about 10,400 active sites subject to the program, with issues such as underground storage tanks and hazardous chemical spills. To date, there have been slightly more than 900 cases closed by LSRPs, with “closeouts” referring to a specific geographic area that may have multiple cases.

But the DEP projects to finish this year with at least 1,200 closeouts, and that's a far cry from the program's early days. In 2010, a mere 169 cases were closed through the LRSP program, Pedersen said.

Stakeholders say the LSRP program took a few years to get going but it has weeded out less qualified professionals and improved cleanup work across the board. Pedersen said New Jersey now has 579 permanent LRSPs, who passed a licensing exam and are subject to oversight by an LSRP board.

And the program's ability to function comes from increased communication between the DEP and the state's environmental consultants.

Posten said “one of the most important” advances are so-called technical guidance documents, which were developed through a stakeholder process laid out by the 2009 law. He noted that, in the past, the DEP would issue guidance documents “without much input from the regulated community.”

“At that point in time you didn't really have a road map for a lot of pretty common technical issues that the regulated community deals with,” he said. “Today it's a bit of a different story — those documents have now been in place for several years, and they provide a lot of additional guidance that goes beyond the regulatory components that are in the Site Remediation Reform Act and DEP's various rules.

“So I think now, the path is a little clearer.” 

That's not to say all the kinks have been worked out. Sue Boyle, executive director of the LSRP association, said certain stakeholders such as lenders are still wrapping their heads around the idea that it's not the DEP making the final call on whether site is contamination-free. An LSRP's work is still subject to an audit by the department, but the consultants now have the power to make that declaration through a document known as a response action outcome.

LSRPs also find themselves having to educate out-of-state clients who have property in New Jersey, said Boyle, a senior environmental practice leader with GEI Consultants Inc. in Mount Laurel.

“I am still very surprised that New Jersey is sort of a world unto its own when it comes to remediation,” Boyle said, later adding: “There is still some education left to be done, not only in New Jersey, but outside of New Jersey.

Paper business

If there’s another way to measure the progress of the LSRP program, it’s through paperwork.

The Site Remediation Reform Act required consultants and responsible parties to develop timelines and submit documents to the DEP for important activities such as a preliminary assessment, a site investigation and evaluations of any environmental impacts.

In 2011, the DEP received 3,500 of these “key documents,” said Mark Pedersen, the DEP’s assistant commissioner for site remediation. This year, it’s on target for 9,000.

“(That) means more work is being done on more sites,” Pedersen said, “because if you remember the whole basis for the (reform act) was to speed up remediations and get the department out of that back-and-forth process, to allow things to proceed without the department’s preapproval while ensuring they’re still protecting human health and the environment.

“So this process is working. More work is getting done.”



Developers: Certainty, timeliness of remediation is big plus

November 03. 2014 11:15AM
By Joshua Burd


If there's one thing developers always want, it's a little extra certainty.

Stephen Santola is executive vice president and general counsel of Woodmont Properties.

That's what they have gained with the state's Licensed Site Remediation Professionals program. Experts say the 5-year-old program has not only helped resolve environmental contamination cases that have lagged for years, but has given builders a new tool as they look to redevelop land across New Jersey.

Stephen Santola, executive vice president and general counsel of Woodmont Properties, said developers expect remediation costs to vary when they look at contaminated sites. And there was a time when simply coordinating with the state Department of Environmental Protection would add months or years to a project.

But that has changed with the LSRP program, which allows licensed private-sector consultants to oversee cleanups. Santola said a developer can now put together a remediation program and “it will get reviewed immediately” — and it will either get approved or amended based on the input from the LSRP.

And even if things change during the remediation, the LSRP has the authority to change the plan without having to shut down the entire project.

“So you know that, from a timeline perspective, even if you were to hit these unknowns as you're moving forward, that you could get them resolved relatively quickly,” Santola said. “And investors love certainty, so while what needs to be done on site may be an ingoing variable, depending on the testing, the timeline is not as variable as it once was.

“And that is enormous when it comes to investment dollars.”

Santola said Woodmont, which is based in Fairfield, has used LSRPs for projects in South Amboy, Hanover and Cranford. The program is increasingly valuable in a state where developable land is at a premium, causing builders to look at sites that have some sort of historical issue.

“There are a lot of contaminated sites in New Jersey that are well-positioned location-wise and can be redeveloped,” he said. “But it's a time-intensive matter, and with budget cuts at every government level, it's difficult for DEP to be able to process all of those applications, and to process them as quickly as sometimes is necessary in the private sector.”

Sue Boyle, the executive director of the New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association, said the 1998 Brownfields and Contaminated Site Remediation Act “laid out the process that developers should follow” when it comes to cleanups. Those guidelines have not changed, but the LSRP program certainly speeds up the process.

She added that pre-LSRP program, property owners might drag their feet on a remediation project, “but once there was an interest in a buy-sell agreement, then the developer would have an interest to do it quickly.”

“At times, the department because of the way they tracked the cases — first-in, first-out — couldn't jump to it that quickly,” Boyle said. “Now with the LSRP being the person responsible for preparing the documents and submitting it and reaching closeout of the site … there's a lot more control on the developer's and the LSRP's part for how long the process takes or how quickly the process moves.”