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New bill extends law for polluters

Feb 28, 2006 |

The statute of limitations on environmental crimes would be eliminated, under a bill approved Monday by the Assembly Environment Committee.

The move would end what critics call a roadblock to prosecuting polluters: Environmental crimes often come to light years after they were committed and longer to come to trial, while state law now gives authorities just 10 years.

Included under its provisions would be improper disposal of toxic waste, failing to report spills and lying to the Department of Environmental Protection would

"Environmental crimes are often very difficult to discover and prosecute. So extending the statute of limitations is entirely appropriate," said David Pringle, campaign director of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

Currently, the statute stands at 10 years from the date of discovery.

Also Monday, the Environment Committee cleared a separate bill authorizing the state's 566 towns and cities to petition the DEP to force polluters to clean up contaminate sites to a higher degree after the state has already certified clean up complete.

Both initiatives, sponsors said, are aimed at forcing the clean up of contaminated brownfields sites to either industrial standards or levels that permit future residential development. Environmentalists and urban revivalists contend the sites are an attractive alternative to accommodate future growth without destroying open space and farmland.

Both next head to a vote in the full Assembly.

"Unless the Good Lord is going to make some more ground and put it in New Jersey, everything is going to be precious," said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3 of Paulsboro, sponsor of the clean-up law.

He said the bill would force the clean up of a 19-acre former gypsum landfill at the site of the future port of Paulsboro. While not delaying the port project, Burzichelli said the borough could use any available space

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