NJDEP Considers Changes to Speed Permits and RAOs
Friday, June 16, 2023 08:04 AM
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) officials, at the annual New Jersey Site Remediation Conference attended by more than 450 LSRPs and site remediation experts, said they are working on changes both in administration and procedure to speed the approval of permits and issuance of RAOs, which have delayed the completion of remediation projects.

David Haymes, NJDEP Assistant Commissioner of Contaminated Site Remediation and Redevelopment, said the Department is considering priority review on five categories of permits,  administrative changes to free up permit writers, and shifting staff to handle simple permits. For Remedial Action Permit (RAP) applications, any comments on permit applications will first be reviewed and approved by a supervisor, not just the permit writer, to ensure consistency, he said.

Since 2009, when the LSRP program began, more than 13,000 environmental remediation sites have been completed and LSRPs have issued more than 20,000 Response Action Outcome or RAO documents determining remediation projects within those sites have been completed, Haymes said.

In 2022, the NJDEP received 1,268 RAP applications and issued 851, leaving about a third that still required review and processing, Haymes said. The NJDEP has worked on a first-in, first-out permit process, but is looking to assign experienced permit writers to complicated projects and move simpler permit applications to others.

NJDEP Chief Advisor Paul Stofa, who also serves as Chair of the New Jersey Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board, said the NJDEP has already made changes in natural resource damage actions. In an administrative order from March 2023, the NJDEP states it will seek, as much as possible, a collaborative effort with remediating parties and not just engage in litigation, he said.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, said LSRPs kept their promise to the site remediation program. Some environmental groups thought LSRPs would be a boondoggle, he said: “You have been honest, professional and you got the job done.”

Smith said he would be talking to NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette soon about issues he sees with the program. Smith said he has heard that the NJDEP is dictating what should happen on remediation projects. To a large crowd of environmental professionals and LSRPs, Smith asked, “How many of you think the DEP is overly inserting itself in your profession?” Two-thirds of the hands in the room went up.

“We have a good program working well, to clean up sites. Let’s not screw it up,” Smith said. He also encouraged LSRPs to consider the future impacts of climate change when cleaning up sites and to do more to educate themselves on PFAS.

Bill Call, LSRPA President for 2023, was not able to attend the conference. On his behalf, Candace Baker, LSRPA Vice President for Internal Affairs, thanked former LSRPA board members Joe Hochreiter, David Hoffman, Mark Pietrucha and Joseph Postorino for their service.

Baker also thanked former LSRPA Executive Director Sue Boyle and former Assistant Executive Director Bill Hose, both of whom have retired, for their work on behalf of the association. Baker welcomed new Executive Director Janice Brogle, Assistant Executive Director Dave Sweeney, and Deputy Assistant Director Beverly Entin to the association.

Brogle, who joined the LSRPA after 38 years with the NJDEP, said she leapt at the chance to become executive director because it is a program she really believes in. In the past year, under Boyle’s leadership, the LSRPA has commented on Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board rules, commented on the RAP process, met with Sen. Smith about LSRPA concerns and proposed solutions, and participated in listening sessions organized by the NJDEP, she said.

The LSRPA also has participated in Site Remediation Reform Act rulemaking and regular meetings to improve communications, Brogle said. Soon, LSRPs and subject matter experts will meet with the NJDEP on ecological risk assessments.

LSRPs also were able to take in-person continuing education courses and technical presentations, covering such topics as ethics, contaminants of emerging concern, PFAS, sustainable resilient remediation for a changing climate and remediation pitfalls to avoid.