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Coughlin Bill to Change Priority Ranking of Environmental Clean-Up Loans Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) — A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin that would change the priority ranking of state funding for brownfield redevelopment projects passed the Assembly earlier this month by a vote of 79-0.

The measure (A-2395) would change the priority of grants awarded by the state Economic Development Authority (EDA) from its Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund (HDSRF) and also would add new priority categories.

“In the current economic environment, with municipal budgets everywhere challenged to find funding to address environmental hazards, it is important to give towns the assistance they need to get things done,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex), whose 19th Legislative District includes four sites totaling nearly 1,000 acres that would qualify for funding under this bill. “Doing so isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for our economy as well.”

As determined by the DEP, a “brownfield development area” is any area in the state that contains at least two brownfield sites, is a discreet neighborhood and has community support for its potential remediation and redevelopment. The HDSRF provides loans and grants to municipalities, funded through a constitutionally dedicated portion of the state’s corporation business tax, to help remediate and redevelop brownfields. In fiscal year 2011, $25.8 million was set aside for this purpose.

Under Coughlin’s bill:

  • Sites in a brownfield development area that are owned by a municipality and that are being developed by a public entity would be given second priority for funding;
  • Other sites in brownfield development areas would be given third priority; and
  • Sites that have previously been awarded a grant or loan from the HDSRF that require additional funding to complete remediation or redevelopment would be given fourth priority.

In addition, the measure would change the grant funding priority from second to fifth as follows:

  • Second Priority — those sites in areas designated as Planning Area 1 (Metropolitan);
  • Third Priority — those sites in areas designated as Planning Area 2 (Suburban);
  • Fourth Priority — those sites in designated centers or areas receiving plan endorsement as designated pursuant to the “State Planning Act” and;
  • Fifth Priority — those sites that the Brownfields Redevelopment Task Force determines are of immediate economic development potential.

“This is both an economic and quality of life issue,” Coughlin said. “We need to make sure that we are designating our limited pool of funding to those hazardous sites that cast the biggest blight on their communities. Doing so will help speed redevelopment which, in turn, will help put people back to work and provide a desperately needed boost to local tax bases.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.