New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust

On Monday a New Jersey Assembly panel advanced a bill that would require local governments and authorities wanting to use New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust funds for projects costing $1 million or more to first obtain a financing cost estimate from the trust.

The Assembly Environment and Waste Committee unanimously approved an amended version of A1649, which was introduced Jan. 27 and marks the latest effort to expand the trust’s oversight of local spending.

“The estimate will enable the local government unit to evaluate, and other interested parties to consider, the potential savings of financing and interest costs offered by trust financing compared to other available methods of financing the project,” the bill statement reads.

The amended version exempts local governments from the requirement if an infrastructure project was approved by ordinance or resolution prior to the bill getting signed into law and also reduces the time frame in which the trust must provide the estimate from 15 days to five.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, who is the committee’s chair, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex, and Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer, D-Bergen and Passaic, the legislation drew support from the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey and the Laborers International Union of North America.

Ciro Scalera, the government affairs director for the union, thanked the committee for modifying the bill after hearing from its detractors, such as the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

Under the bill, the NJEIT must provide an online form for the financing cost estimate. Local governments may be asked to provide additional information concerning the project and borrower, including a detailed description of the project, design, engineering and environmental information; a cost estimate prepared by the project engineer or other qualified person; information regarding the borrower; and the amount to be financed.

The legislation has been in the works for two years,.

An initial version introduced by the Assembly in July 2014 received 69-7 approval from that chamber in March after review by its Environment and Solid Waste Committee. The Senate introduced a version in September 2014, left that house’s Environment and Energy Committee along with some amendments.

Both bills were referred to, but never advanced from, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

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Pa. Gov.-Elect Taps Former Natural Resources secretary to head Environmental Protection

Pennsylvania Gov-Elect Tom Wolf said Wednesday that he has chosen a former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary to head the incoming administration’s Department of Environmental Protection, and that environmental group PennFuture’s CEO will be appointed DCNR’s secretary.

In announcing the selection of John Quigley — who served as DCNR’s head from 2009 to 2011 before leaving to start his own consultancy — to helm Pennsylvania’s DEP, Wolf said Wednesday that the state’s natural resources like the Marcellus Shale need to be better utilized to jump-start the economy and capitalize on the natural gas industry.

Cindy Dunn, Wolf’s pick to head DCNR, also has experience with the agency. She previously served as its deputy secretary of conservation and technical service, before taking over as president and CEO of state environmental advocacy organization PennFuture.

Dunn joined DCNR in 2003 and served in various positions before leaving for the private sector. She also served as the executive director of Audubon Pennsylvania from 1997 to 2003 and holds a master’s degree in biology from Shippensburg University.

Quigley held various positions at the DCNR too and previously served as the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for eight years. He received a master’s degree in public administration from Lehigh University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Bloomsburg University.

The appointments come on the heels of last week’s news that Ahmad Zaffarese & Smyler LLC partner Denise Smyler would serve as head of Pennsylvania’s Office of General Counsel.

On Wednesday, Wolf also named the state’s former Assistant Chief Information Officer Sharon Minnich as his new secretary of the Office of Administration.

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