U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson said Monday that the proposal to overhaul New Jersey's site remediation program by using licensed private contractors is worth trying because the contaminated sites aren't getting cleaned up under the current system.
In a visit to the Inquirer's newsroom, Jackson answered questions on a broad range of topics, including the so-called "licensed site professional" bill recently signed into law by Gov. Corzine, who she saw at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday. The law will allow the parties responsible for cleaning up toxic sites to hire licensed environmental consultants to determine how to clean up the contamination and then certify that they meet state standards.
Work on the legislation began under Jackson's watch at the DEP. She said that while she has not kept up with the changes to the bill since she left, the proposal was an attempt to get the toxic sites cleaned up faster. New Jersey has nearly 20,000 contaminated sites ranging from leaky homeowners' fuel tanks to Superfund sites and many have lingered for years, mired in red tape.
Jackson said that when she was asked about the program in her EPA confirmation hearing, she said she didn't think there was a need for such a program at the federal level because of the smaller number of contaminated sites under federal oversight.
"It can't get worse," Jackson said of the New Jersey sites. "They're not going to get cleaned up by themselves."
Environmentalists fought the proposal and argued for a number of measures to strengthen environmental controls. In signing the bill into law, Corzine also signed an executive order that, among other steps, increases the role of the DEP in sensitive sites such as land to be used for housing and schools.
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