A bill that would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to grant two-year extensions to parties responsible for conducting remedial investigations of contaminated sites was advanced Thursday morning by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
The bill would extend the deadline two years from the current one of May 7, 2014, which was designated by a 2009 law. Under that law, the DEP would assume direct oversight of any site cleanup which fails to meet the looming deadline.
Though a lengthy hearing was held on the bill earlier this month, no action was taken until Thursday morning following testimony from Mark Pedersen, acting assistant commissioner for the DEP's remediation program.
Committee chairman and State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) said the two-year extension seems like a "reasonable request." Following the vote, he said he hopes to see the bill move speedily through the legislature given that the deadline is approaching.
"I'm hoping that we get it passed by the end of the session," Smith said. "It is the right thing to do."
State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Cranbury) was the only member of the committee who did not cast a vote in the affirmative, choosing instead to abstain. Greenstein said it's because she still has questions on how some of the more complicated sites are being cleaned-up.
Michael Egenton, vice president of government relations for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, called the advancement of the bill a "win-win overall for everybody." Having testified earlier this month in support of the bill, Egenton said Thursday that he hopes the legislation will move quickly with bipartisan support.
The longer the business and development communities go without an extension, the more economic uncertainty it breeds, he said.
"It's critical and I think we conveyed that," Egenton said about moving quickly on the bill.
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