NJDEP’s Remedial Priority Scoring System (RPS) is new, it’s innovative, and really ambitious. Under the RPS, the State will actually rank contaminated sites based on quantified risk to “public health, safety or the environment.” There are over 12,000 active contaminated cases which may be included in the ranking analysis. The NJDEP will utilize Geographic Information Systems and elaborate data base technology to determine current and potential future impacts on groundwater, soil and air media.
The Department’s goals are laudable. If, for example, ground water or soil contamination is not yet fully delineated, the RPS ranking system may be useful to potential purchasers of “redevelopment sites” and lenders attempting to quantify future risk. Purchasers and lenders will want to know where the property ranks in the RPS data base. In situations where a coveted redevelopment site does not fit within the lender’s risk-tolerance, all parties involved will be jockeying for position. The party responsible for remediating may petition for a low-risk ranking, while the prospective purchaser may be arguing for middle ground. If the ranking is too high, financing may fall through. If the ranking is too low, then areas of environmental concern may not be remediated and, potentially, will have to be revisited down the road.
Information is good. Data is essential. Nonetheless, when it is time to “rank” an environmentally sensitive site, NJDEP must entrust its technical staff with sufficient discretion to make the right call. Let the fun begin.
Marc Policastro is a shareholder with Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, a Red Bank-based law firm.