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Naiop New Jersey: Environmental Update – Culture Change At Dep
Commissioner Bob Martin and Two Expert Panels Explore the Often Conflicting Issues Affecting both Development and Preservation
By: Caryl Communications, Inc.
Terming the new attitude at DEP a "culture change," Martin explained that while guarding the environment, his agency also plays a key role in economic development. The thrust of the change at DEP includes the message delivered clearly to staffers that, "the applications on your desk right now are jobs, and they can't be allowed to just sit there," he said. "We are pushing every day to focus on growing business in the state while simultaneously protecting the environment. And in Chris Christie, we have a governor who 'gets it'."
The commissioner explained that his office has been looking at all possible aspects to develop a "transformation agenda, because nobody is happy with DEP—not the business community, the mayors, or the environmentalists."
Covering a broad range of issues, Martin noted that recent measures have included the addition of a new assistant commissioner for economic growth, institution of one-stop permitting, resurrection of the Office of Dispute Resolution, and new emphasis on customer service. He cited clean water, green energy (including wind) as other key issues, and called the Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) program "an absolute priority. That program cannot and will not fail.
"We are also focusing on how to work with the legislature,"
Heading an expert panel on site remediation, moderator Don Richardson of Environmental Waste Management Associates noted the importance of the ongoing decision-making process for the LSRP program's final rules. Stephen Santola of Woodmont Properties concurred that LSRP, "cannot be allowed to fail. This has really been a bipartisan program with buy-in from industry and DEP." He questioned whether the lending community understands the program, and urged that the LSRP concept be expanded into land use.
Attorney Andrew Robins of Giordano Halleran & Ciesla conceded that there have been some misconceptions and a lack of knowledge about LSRP, and perhaps some basis for caution. "I am finding that I have to be a 'drum major' for the program," he said. Robins also applauded improved relations with DEP under the new administration.
"There has been a sea change for environmental issues, industry, and the entire state," said Lawra Dodge of Excel Environmental Resources. "It has been a long time coming. The regulatory climate for land use has been broken for a long time."
As part of a panel of Land Use experts, Diana Fainberg of Diana E. Fainberg Inc., lauded a recent administrative order preventing DEP from withdrawing sewer service for reasons of deadlines and other strictures—reversing a bill vetoed by former Gov. Jon Corzine. Tony DiLodovico voiced his support for the extension of DEP's storm water rules by the Christie administration, mentioning that the previous administration was set to let them expire. And while noting that there haven't yet been many initiatives relating to fresh water wetlands regulations, Todd Terhune of Wolff & Samson pointed to activity in the form of new mitigation requirements relating to general permits and to stiffened enforcement penalties.
Moderating the Land Use panel, George Jacobs of Jacobs Enterprises noted that he had once lost a project because of a four-and-a-half year wait tied to regulatory delays but concluded, "I hope the new philosophy at DEP translates over time. I am optimistic."