STATE — The state Department of Environmental Protection and the League of Municipalities held a joint series of round tables on brownfields and site remediation this week, but an environmental group notes that the discussions won’t amount to much.
The Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, which gives money to municipalities for assessments and brownfield cleanups, is broke. Officials told lawmakers earlier this month that there is a backlog of applications for $71 million in projects that must be cleared before new applications can be reviewed. The fund, which is sustained through the dedication of a portion of the corporate business tax revenues, is only expected to have $13 million for next year.
“By not having funding for brownfield cleanups it hurts the economy and the environment. This allows for more toxins to leach off the site impacting the people and communities around them, while hurting the towns’ economy and tax base by leaving these sites empty,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
This is the second environmental cleanup fund to go broke this year; the other was for underground storage tank cleanups.
Funding for environmental programs has been diverted for other purposes, such as DEP staff salaries, and tax cuts have reduced the overall amount collected, the NJ Sierra Club says.
“Tax cuts have consequences. When you broadly cut taxes there can be outcomes that hurt both jobs and the environment. Eliminating money for brownfield cleanups and redevelopment is one of the consequences of having broad rather than targeted tax cuts,” said Tittel.
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