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Remedial Priority Scoring System Goes Live in December

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What Owners Need to Know
December 14, 2012 | Legal Alert
Cherry Hill, NJ

Late December (or shortly thereafter) will mark a sea change in the public listing of contaminated sites in New Jersey with the roll out of the New Jersey Remedial Priority Scoring (RPS) System. While the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protections (NJDEP) will only use the system to better guide it in allocating its limited resources, the outcome is that many contaminated sites will be ranked according to the threat pose to human health and the environment – and those ranking will be made public.     

When posted, the site listings on the “Active Sites with Confirmed Contamination” list will now include, for the first time, the following:

The RPS System is an automated model that gathers electronic data from different sources, including electronic data supplied to the NJDEP from remediating parties, analyzes the data under the model, and generates a relative categorical ranking between 1 and 5 for each site, with 5 indicating the greatest potential risk to human health and the environment (and thus the highest cleanup priority). The NJDEP’s goal is to create a more efficient and data-driven system that will allow it to focus its limited resources most effectively. RPS categories will not be created for homeowner cases, unknown source cases, cases that are in an operation and maintenance phase, or for properties which have been issued site-wide No Further Action letters or Remedial Action Outcomes.  

The NJDEP created the RPS System pursuant to the mandate of the Site Remediation Reform Act’s amendments to the Spill Compensation and Control Act (N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.16). The Department will use the RPS System only as a tool to be used in evaluating contaminated sites. If a high category is assigned to a certain site, it does not necessarily mean that the site will be subject to NJDEP oversight. More information is available on the NJDEP’s website, and on the “Site Remediation” homepage.

Responsible parties may want to keep a few things in mind as this system is launched.  These include:

The RPS System represents a move toward streamlining an often arduous and complex process of site remediation reporting and tracking. While it isn’t perfect, the RPS provides far more transparency regarding the potential degrees of health and environmental risks of each contaminated site to the public. We believe that the program represents a sea change in the decision-making process by persons responsible for managing the remediation of contaminated sites. For example, sites with high rankings that fail to retain LSRPs or fail to meet regulatory or mandatory remediation deadlines will be much more easily targeted by the NJDEP for compliance enforcement. In addition, quickly addressing the “lowest hanging fruit” at a contaminated site may significantly reduce an RPS category ranking, which in turn would decrease the potential of a category ranking to be misunderstood and misused by a third party, for example, a prospective purchaser, lender or bank, litigation plaintiff, or insurance company. Obviously, the tasks involved in managing the remediation of contaminated sites will also need to include identifying, addressing and managing a whole host of likely attempts by others advancing various interests to intentionally or unintentionally misuse the RPS rankings. 

For additional information, please contact Frank Riesenburger, Environmental Law Department Chair, or any other members of the Environmental Law Department at Flaster/Greenberg.

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