Sponsor: Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester)
What it does: The bill would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to do an analysis of the 21-year-old Pollution Prevention Act, a law aimed at encouraging industry to curb the pollution coming from its operations by using less hazardous substances.
What the fight is all about: As part of the analysis, the DEP would determine the number of industrial facilities subject to the act and compare its reporting requirements with state and federal laws also dealing with handling of hazardous substances. The bill mirrors an ongoing effort by the DEP, which began a stakeholder process in 2010 to determine whether there should be amendments to the law.
What’s happened so far: The measure easily passed the Assembly this past week in a 72-4 vote. Previously, it won unanimous approval from the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, which Burzichelli chairs.
Why it’s moving through the Legislature The issue once again marks a convergence of Democrats and the Christie administration’s efforts to streamline regulatory requirements for the business community. Burzichelli, who served on the Governor’s Red Tape Review Commission, has sponsored several bills, which aim to eliminate duplicative requirement, particularly in the environmental area.
Why opponents don’t like it: Environmentalists fear the outcome of the study will recommend a repeal or a pull back in the Pollution Prevention Act. They say the law has significantly reduced the amount of toxins released over the years and has helped protect workers in industrial facilities and the community around them. They also worry the bill could harm other programs dealing with hazardous substances, such as the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act and Right-to-Know law.
A bad year for the pollution prevention program: The Christie administration’s proposed budget recommends shifting $1.1 million in money from the existing pollution prevention program, part of nearly $20 million in funds to be shifted from the DEP to plug a gap in the spending plan.
What happens next: It heads to the Senate where the same bill died in the last legislative session. An identical Senate bill (S-2026), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Atlantic), has yet to be heard by any committee.