The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has proposed to change Surface Water Quality Standards antidegradation designations for 749 miles of rivers and streams in New Jersey. The changes will heighten standards for regulated discharges to those waterbodies and extend the applicable Flood Hazard Area Control Act riparian development buffer from the current 150 feet to 300 feet. The buffer restricts development and excludes sewer service for development.
Antidegradation designations provide three levels of regulation for surface waters – including Outstanding Natural Resource waters (primarily in the Pinelands), Category One waters and Category Two waters. The waterbodies subject to the proposed redesignations are currently Category Two, which means that water quality is permitted to decrease based on social or economic justifications. The proposed redesignation to Category One will prohibit any measurable change to water quality, and, therefore, new or expanded wastewater discharges must maintain the existing water quality of the receiving waterbody.
Of the total 749 additional miles proposed to be added to Category One, 734 miles are proposed for redesignation based on NJDEP’s findings of exceptional ecological significance and 53 miles are based on exceptional fisheries resources (with 38 miles of overlap). Waterbodies are deemed exceptional fisheries resources when fish surveys reveal naturally reproduced trout in their first year of life. A waterbody is considered to have exceptional ecological significance if it has either habitat suitable for at least one of seven endangered species documented to live there or if the waterbody includes an exceptional aquatic community. An exceptional aquatic community has a healthy community of small aquatic animals (like snails, larvae and worms), and at least two of the following: optimal habitat, excellent fish community, compliance with water quality criteria, and limited impervious surface runoff. Approximately 137 miles are proposed based on endangered species habitat while 600 miles are based on exceptional aquatic community.
Of note, the proposed Category One designations include tributaries of the river segments that NJDEP claims qualify for redesignation. Previously, NJDEP prohibited discharges to upstream tributaries that would result in a measurable change to water quality at the Category One boundary. As a result of this changed approach, the tributaries identified in the rule, which have not been shown to have either exceptional ecological significance or exceptional fisheries resources, will now have 300 foot development buffers.
Waterbodies impacted by the proposed rule are listed below. Details regarding the specific segments of the waterbodies slated for redesignation are set forth in the proposed rule, available here. Property owners within 300 feet of the redesignated waters may be impacted by these rule
On June 20, 2019, the New Jersey Legislature began moving a bill (S1683/A4267), that would expand the scope of A-901 requirements to a broader range of persons involved in the solid waste industry, including salespeople and consultants. The bill also would subject persons or companies engaged in soil and fill recycling services to the same regulation as those engaged in the business of solid waste.
This proposed legislation passed the Senate unanimously on June 20, 2019 and is now pending before the Assembly.
There are extensive regulations in New Jersey governing businesses involved in the solid waste and recycling industries. Many people do not realize that it is a long and complicated process to become a fully licensed solid waste transporter, facility or broker. And some do not realize that they cannot conduct a solid waste business in the State of New Jersey until the process is completed.
One of the most time-consuming aspects of solid waste licensing is obtaining A-901 approval. The “A901” currently does not apply to those involved in recycling. The A-901 program was adopted many years ago in response to the infiltration of organized crime into the solid waste business to ensure those conducting the business of solid waste in New Jersey have the requisite integrity, reliability, expertise and competence. There are some limited exceptions to A-901 licensing requirements for self-generators of solid waste and Licensed Site Remediation Professionals who manage solid and hazardous waste in connection with remediation projects.
While the process to apply for an A-901 license is long (on average 18 months or longer), our experience has provided several practical considerations that can make the process smoother:
- The applicant is not the only entity responsible for completing the corporate history disclosure forms; each parent company and potentially even equity, private and remote investors must completely fill out these forms. Moreover, every key employee, owner, officer, director, member and partner in the business must submit a personal history disclosure form, that includes information about family members, employment history and these individuals must also submit to fingerprint checks. It is imperative that these persons be complete in their responses.
- The New Jersey State Police are obligated to do a background check on applicants. So be prepared to respond to questions and/or inquiries about situations that may have occurred years ago. For example, an applicant recently was asked about long unpaid motor vehicle citations; an affidavit from the applicant explaining that were out of the country at the time and did not own the car in question kept channeled and constrained the background check keeping things on track. In another instance a longstanding litigation unrelated to current business operations came up. By settling the matter the background check stayed on course.
- Make sure the business is in good standing, including with the Division of Taxation.
Finally, if the applicant is qualified”, NJDEP will issue the A-901 license, but may as a condition require the recipient to attend an NJDEP seminar and/or obtain a letter from an attorney stating that the company has been advised of the applicable laws and regulations and is aware of its compliance obligations. Having an attorney that has been involved in the A-901 application and that will be available to complete this step will also help to efficiently navigate the process.
For more information, please contact the author or any Government Affairs Advisor at DMGS.