by Colleen Kokas, Environmental Liability Transfer
BCONE members participated in a day-long workshop sponsored by the Center for Creative Land Recycling (CCLR) in Camden recently. The program, “Accelerated Land Reuse for Community Revitalization,” provided a forum for questions and answers on brownfield legal liability, regulatory issues, funding resources, assessment/remediation and community engagement to help boost redevelopment efforts. Two panel sessions, “Ask the Experts” and “Show Me The Money,” consisted of public and private-sector experts to spark the discussion. These were followed by the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a broader range of professionals from the public and private sectors to learn about steps to initiate or accelerate the redevelopment of distressed sites for community revitalization.
BCONE and CCLR, the Technical Assistance to Brownfields grantee for EPA Region 2, have a common mission of educating and connecting stakeholders to advance brownfield remediation and redevelopment. The groups continue to strengthen their partnership through events such as this.
The “Ask the Experts” panel was moderated by BCONE Advisory Council member, Colleen Kokas, and featured BCONE Board member, Wanda Chin Monahan, who offered information on the liability scheme in New Jersey and at the Federal level, specifically with CERCLA. Questions from attendees covered a wide range of issues such as:
- The impact of the new definition of “person” in NJAC 7:26C, Technical Rules for Site Remediation, that make it more difficult for corporate officials to avoid personal liability for contamination/site cleanups;
- Strategies for addressing owners that are unwilling to convey brownfield sites due to the potential identification of contamination and the stigma that could bring to the site;
- “Non-starters” on a potential deal in a municipality;
- Input on whether you can really rely on a prior PA/SI to support an innocent purchaser defense under NJSA 58:23.11, the Spill Compensation and Control Act; and
- What advice is there for Mayors seeking support from the community on a potential redevelopment project?
The “Show Me The Money” panel featured representatives from EPA Region 2, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, NJ Economic Development Authority and NJ Infrastructure Bank, moderated by CCLR’s David Southgate. Again, the attendees were very interested in the topic, since it can be a critical gap in brownfield projects. Topics discussed included:
- EDA’s new $250,000 grant program “21st Century Assistance” that plans to be the catalyst to give new life to at least five idled strip malls and office parks;
- The announcement of EDA’s plan to develop a Brownfield Tax Credit program and a Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund (that is not legislatively driven);
- The best way to draft a “Road Map” for financing and other resources to identify a path forward on a project; and
- The “real deal” on what a developer needs to provide to the Infrastructure Bank when partnering with a municipality on a conduit loan.
A lunchtime tribute to the late George Kelly, who was a friend to the brownfield community, active in revitalizing Camden and an original member of the NJ Brownfield Redevelopment Task Force was provided by Chris Hager, a colleague and friend at Langan Engineering.
The day ended with over a dozen representatives from state and federal agencies participating in one-on-one roundtable sessions, where attendees could ask more specific questions and get into a deeper dialogue about revitalization issues. Some other agencies not represented on the morning panels included US Commerce (Economic Development Authority), NJ Office for Planning Advocacy, NJ Business Action Center, NJDOT, NJ Department of Community Affairs, NJ State Council on the Arts and NJ Green Acres Program.
Attendees stated over and over throughout the day that the biggest benefit of attending a workshop is to get to meet the contacts for these important program/offices so that they can build relationships with the people. BCONE continues to seek symbiotic relationships with organizations such as CCLR on events like this one in Camden. When you see the wide-range of issues discussed, the guidance and advice provided by experts and the value openly expressed by the attendees, it benefits those brownfield stakeholders that BCONE seeks to educate.