Loyal workers = Loyal clients

By: Sally Glick of Sobel & Co.

In the Harvard Business Review case study entitled, “Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work” by James L. Heskett, Thomas O. Jones, Gary W. Loveman, W. Earl Sasser, Jr., and Leonard A. Schlessinger, the authors make the point that there is a direct correlation between customer loyalty and company’s profitability.

That makes sense, but when they dug a little deeper to discuss how customer loyalty is achieved, they arrived at the conclusion that loyal customers/clients are those who are satisfied – and they are satisfied because of the way the company’s employees treat them! So in the end it can be said that satisfied and loyal employees result in satisfied and loyal clients.

The chain that connects loyal employees to loyal clients to bottom line profitability is very powerful but it can be easily overlooked by a company’s leadership team. Those at the top often (rightfully) take credit for shaping the culture, the philosophy and the attitude of the company. But it is important to remember that everyone in the company contributes to making that culture a reality and everyone in the company influences the loyalty and satisfaction of the clients, and thus increases profitability.

Those employees who are on the front lines, interacting with the clients on a regular basis, are well positioned to enhance the client’s positive experience. It is the company’s leader’s responsibility to ensure that every employee understands his/her role and the opportunities available for developing a meaningful connection with the clients.
Questions to ponder

Do you empower your team – leveraging their loyalty and enthusiasm – to encourage them to interface with clients whenever it is appropriate? If the answer is no, you might want to reconsider.
Think of the way that Disney expects every employee (dubbed ‘cast members’) from the street sweepers to the in-costume characters to take ownership of creating a magical moment for their guests. They are trained to assist visitors to the park, to help build the image and to ensure that everybody is happy in the happiest place on earth. Each person recognizes that they have a personal impact on the families they meet.
What can you do?

You may not be operating a theme park, but your customers/clients deserve – and probably expect – that they will be well treated by everyone they encounter at the company.

• This starts with the way the phone is answered (pleasantly and with a welcoming greeting) to the length of time on hold to the ability of the staff to solve any problem. Of course today’s technology has gone a long way to eliminate human contact and has turned many of these touchpoints into less meaningful transactions, so you need to work twice as hard to infuse the spirit of humanity into your procedures where you can.

• Sending follow-up emails are useful but an occasional ‘real ‘phone call from an employee confirming a detail might be appreciated as well.

• Shorter waiting times for the company’s response, or at least managing expectations if there is going to be significant time involved while researching a problem, can go a long way to demonstrating that you are sensitive to your client’s anticipated time line. Employees who are actively engaged can add real value by keeping clients informed of the progress.

No matter what industry you are in, treating people thoughtfully never grows old. Regardless of any new social media platform or cutting edge tools, communication with clients – especially from front line employees – will always be a necessary tool when you seek to earn your client’s loyalty.
Making a difference

The critical concept for you to remember is that it is your own satisfied and loyal employees who have the best chance of ‘charming’ your clients and reinforcing a positive perception about the company. What are you doing to create a loyal and satisfied workforce? Opportunities for relevant training, the latest technology resources, a respectful environment where their thoughts are valued and their voices are heard, a nurturing culture, sincere concern, effective communication processes, an attitude that supports work-life balance and fair compensation and benefits packages all contribute to building a committed workforce that is eager to have a significant impact on the company’s profitability!

 

 

Required Minimum Distributions – Comply With These Important Rules

Featured

Contributions to various retirement plans, including Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) and 401(k) plans, remain one of the most legitimate tax shelters in the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions result in immediate deductions, and investment earnings grow tax deferred. Over the years, Congress has attempted to expand the tax benefits in this area through increases in deduction limits and new retirement plan vehicles. Ultimately, taxpayers must begin to withdraw funds from most retirement plans in accordance with the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) rules.

The general rule is that an individual must begin receiving distributions from their retirement plan by April 1 of the year following the year in which they attain age 70½, referred to as the required beginning date. For example, an individual with a birthdate of July 19, 1946 reached age 70 on July 19, 2016 and reached age 70½ on January 19, 2017. Thus, in this instance, the required beginning date is April 1, 2018. The retirement plan custodian more often than not will compute the amount of the RMD based on the account holder’s life expectancy. A taxpayer can always receive more than the RMD.

If a taxpayer fails to receive a RMD in a timely fashion, the taxpayer faces a 50% excise tax on the amount not distributed. If the excess accumulation is due to reasonable error, and the taxpayer has taken or is taking steps to remedy the insufficient distribution, the taxpayer can request that the 50% excise tax be waived. Using the above facts, the initial RMD is for 2017. While it must be received by April 1, 2018, the taxpayer can take it during 2017, the year in which age 70½ was attained. The RMD for any year after the year in which age 70½ is attained must be made by December 31 of that later year. If a taxpayer delays receipt of their initial RMD until the following year, they will end up with two distributions in that year. Using the same example, if the initial RMD is not received until sometime in 2018 (by April 1), the second RMD will need to be received by December 31, 2018. Depending on the taxpayer’s circumstances, it may be beneficial to take the initial RMD in the preceding year (2017), so as not to end up with two distributions in one year, which could push the taxpayer into a higher tax bracket.

Another reason to avoid receiving two RMDs in the same year is to take advantage of state pension exclusions. New Jersey provides a pension exclusion of $20,000 for single taxpayers and $40,000 for joint filers who are over age 62 as long as total gross income does not exceed $100,000. New York provides an annual pension exclusion of $20,000 for each spouse who has attained age 59½. As an aside, age 59½ has significance, as any distributions received from taxable retirement accounts prior to attaining this age that are not rolled over within 60 days are subject to a federal 10% premature distribution penalty in addition to being subject to tax. There are a number of exceptions to the premature distribution penalty, the most common one being an inherited distribution from a decedent.

For distributions from an employer retirement plan, the required beginning date is the later of

April 1 following the year in which age 70½ is attained, or the calendar year in which the employee retires from employment, with the employer maintaining the plan as long as the employee is not a 5% or greater owner of the employer. Visit the IRS website for useful publications pertaining to retirement plans, including Pub. 560, Retirement Plans for Small Business, and Pub. 590-B, Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements.

NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin Discusses Extreme Weather and Environmental Issues

COMMERCE RECENTLY SAT DOWN with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Bob Martin to discuss extreme weather events; flooding and combined sewer overflows; New Jersey’s Superfund and brownfield sites; the state’s Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program; working
with the business community; and protecting the environment. Here are his insights, thoughts and observations.

COMMERCE: How is the NJDEP helping municipalities and businesses prepare for extreme weather events?

BOB MARTIN: The best way to prepare for these events is through sound planning and by becoming more resilient. This requires long-term capital investment and prudent asset management, as well as strong communications with stakeholders. For example, we work with businesses—particularly those that provide such critical services as drinking water and wastewater treatment—to make them aware of a coming storm
event. The key lesson learned from Superstorm Sandy was the need to become more resilient to storms.

Q. What progress has been made, post-Sandy, in making the Garden State more resilient and prepared for future superstorms?

A. New Jersey is building beaches and dunes that can absorb the impact of storm surge. In cooperation with the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT), the NJDEP has also supported the recovery of the state’s water and waste water infrastructure and is working to make sure it is better protected in future storms.

Q. How about financial assistance for impacted communities and municipalities?

A. To reduce the financial stress on impacted communities, we created the Statewide Assistance Infrastructure Loan Program (SAIL) with the NJEIT to provide immediate emergency financing to facilities that had been damaged by Superstorm Sandy. SAIL is currently facilitating eight rebuild and resiliency projects totaling $174 million. Through our Office of Local Government Assistance, NJDEP has provided $50 million in federal
funding for projects to reduce local flood risks and improve resiliency.

Q. Flooding and rising sea levels are a growing issue for New Jersey. How is NJDEP responding to this threat to lives and property?

A. As a coastal state, rising sea levels are an obvious concern to New Jersey.
Our comprehensive engineered coastal protection system, which we have worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build, is already providing significant protection to homes, business, and infrastructure at risk along New Jersey’s 127-mile-long coastline.

To date, $1.24 billion in federal funds has been invested in toward beach and dune construction and other such flood control projects to promote shoreline resiliency. When it is completed, it will be the first time in New Jersey history that such a system exists.

In addition, $300 million has been committed to move homeowners in flood-prone areas out of harm’s way. Through our Blue Acres program, the NJDEP has purchased, at pre-storm market value, 600 homes that have suffered repetitive flooding. This program has
given hundreds of families a viable alternative to living with the constant threat of flooding and all the cost and heartache this entails. Once purchased, the homes are demolished and the land is preserved as open space that helps provide neighborhoods with buffers to flood waters.

Q. What is the NJDEP’s response to combined sewer overflows?

A. The Christie administration is the first to take meaningful steps toward addressing the state’s longtime problem of combined sewer overflows. We developed a new combined sewer overflow permit program that requires communities with combined sewer systems to development long-term plans toward eliminating the remaining 210 combined sewer outfalls in the state.

Solving this decades-old challenge will require long-term capital investment in new infrastructure. But some of the problem can also be addressed in the near term by creating green infrastructure to reduce storm water that gets into combined sewer systems, causing overflows.

The NJDEP is working with its permittees at every step of the process by providing
compliance and technical assistance, as well as by providing incentives to help them with plan development and infrastructure investments.

Q. What is the status of brownfield and Superfund sites in New Jersey today?

A. Through the Brownfields Development Area program and Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, the NJDEP has provided more than $70 million in grants for more
than 275 projects since 2010. Through our partnerships with businesses, municipalities and others, we have turned many of these sites back into economically valuable properties once again. The NJDEP continues to work closely with the USEPA to ensure that New Jersey’s Superfund sites are cleaned up and that every effort is made to
ensure responsible parties are held accountable for paying for the work.

Q. How would you assess New Jersey’s LSRP program, as it is an integral part of the cleanup of the state’s contaminated sites?
A. The Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program is an outstanding example of the NJDEP’s success at being innovative and transforming the way we carry out our mission. Since the start of this program, the pace and progress of remedial investigations have picked up markedly. Responsible parties have clear goals and understand our expectations for thorough and timely cleanups. Today, we have some 14,300 active contaminated sites, down from 20,000 prior to the passage of the Site
Remediation Reform Act.

Q. But do these numbers tell the whole story, when it comes to contaminated
site cleanups in the Garden State?

A.The number of contaminated sites—including many underground storage tank cases—is always fluctuating, as sites enter or are removed from the state’s Known Contaminated Site List. In fact, some 25,000 sites have been successfully processed through the Site Remediation Program, thanks to our new efficiencies. The LSRP program has made a difference in communities across the state, protecting public health, natural resources and creating opportunities for redevelopment and jobs.

Q. How is the NJDEP working with the business community?

A. Our commitment to reducing regulatory burdens, transforming the NJDEP and improved customer service have enabled us to develop an excellent working relationship with New Jersey’s businesses, as well as our counties, municipalities, residents and all stakeholders. In fact, the input of business leaders has helped the NJDEP identify ways to protect the environment, while encouraging economic growth.

One of the ways we have done this is by creating an Office of Permit Coordination and an Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution. These offices have provided countless businesses and thers with assistance in navigating our permit processes and resolving disputes, helping applicants save time and avoid unnecessary costs.

Throughout my time at the NJDEP, I have emphasized the importance of customer service. To put it simply, good customer service means providing everyone who interfaces with the NJDEP prompt and clear answers to their questions and specific guidance in meeting our laws and regulations. We have developed a work environment that is committed to working through issues until they are resolved.

Q. How is New Jersey doing in one of its key metrics—protecting air quality, clean water and natural resources?

A. Our air quality is better now than it was eight years ago. The number of ozone-smog exceedance days in New Jersey has been declining over the past eight years, continuing a long-term trend. Our efforts to encourage cleaner fuels in power generation have produced excellent results. Today, New Jersey has one of the cleanest power-generation sectors in the country, due to the use of both nuclear power and natural gas.
Our water quality continues to improve, as well. The NJDEP’s focus on restoring New Jersey’s waterways and maintaining a rigorous water quality monitoring program, is producing significant progress.

In 2016, 99.5 percent of New Jersey’s public water supply systems complied with the state’s regulations for safe drinking water. And New Jersey’s coastal waters are among the cleanest in the nation, which is why our beaches are open for recreational use an average of 99.9 percent of the time during the beach season. It is also important to note that DEP’s Water Supply Plan found that our state has sufficient water available to meet the demand in the foreseeable future if we continue to pursue environmentally responsible policies and practices.

During this administration, New Jersey acquired 47,000 acres of land through the Green Acres Program and opened the first state park in Gloucester County, Tall Pines State Park, bringing our total number of state parks and forests to 40. In total, the NJDEP manages 800,000 acres of parks, wildlife management areas, and other natural areas across the state for the benefit of the environment and the enjoyment of the people of our state and its many visitors.

New Jersey’s natural resources are among our greatest assets. By preserving open space and protecting the state’s fish and wildlife, we are ensuring that future generations can enjoy New Jersey’s extraordinary diversity of natural resources for years to come.

Q. How can the NJDEP and New Jersey learn from other states or countries?

A. On the first Earth Day in 1970, New Jersey became just the third state in the nation to establish a department devoted to protecting the environment, so other states often look to us for best practices and policies.

For example, the DEP recently proposed stringent drinking-water standards for two chemical compounds for which there is no federal drinking-water standard— perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP). Upon adoption of the standards, New Jersey will be the first state in the nation with a drinking-water standard for PFNA and the third with a standard for 1,2,3-TCP.

New Jersey is also proud to be the first state to require mandatory recycling. But we cannot be complacent. Though much better than the national average and most other states, New Jersey’s municipal solid waste recycling rate needs to improve. We are exploring innovative strategies to boost these rates.

An Inside Look at New Jersey’s Key Environmental Issues

NEW JERSEY—WITH ITS SUPERfund sites, brownfield properties and legacy of old, contaminated industrial structures—offers a rich environment for firms that can address these key issues, such as environmental attorneys, engineers, labs, consultants and
LSRPs. COMMERCE asked these experts to discuss the legislative and regulatory
climate, plus offer insights about how New Jersey firms can prepare for 2018.

Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP
Steve Senior, Esq., Partner, Environmental Group

“New Jersey lawmakers should build on the success of the LSRP [Licensed Site Remediation Professional] program,” says Steve Senior, Esq., a partner in the Environmental Group of law firm Riker Danzig. “One positive step could involve expanding an LSRP’s authority to issue remedial action permits, which is currently up to the NJDEP. For example, a remedial action permit is required when a remedial action
includes leaving soil contamination in place at concentrations exceeding the existing soil remediation standards, and getting the permit from the NJDEP can be a slow process.” Senior, who is involved in stakeholder discussions focused on enhancing the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields in the state, would also like to see more clarity—and fewer business burdens—in the state’s food and electronic waste recycling efforts.

New Jersey recently overhauled its electronic waste program, he notes, pointing out that the new law increases the onus and cost on electronic manufacturers to provide for recycling electronic waste. “It seems likely that New Jersey also will place a significant burden of food waste reduction on the commercial sector, since on July 21,
Governor Chris Christie signed legislation adopting the USEPA’s goal of cutting
the amount of food waste in New Jersey in half by 2030.”

Separate legislation already has been proposed to require large food waste generators to recycle their waste, Senior adds. “Under this legislation, a large food waste generator includes any commercial food wholesaler, supermarket, resort, conference center, banquet hall, restaurant, educational or religious institution, military installation, prison, hospital, medical facility or casino.”

He says lawmakers “should consider the practical consequences, including the need for enhanced recycling and collection infrastructure and appropriate guidance on best practices.” Senior’s advice: affected businesses should stay engaged as lawmakers and agencies implement the new proposals.

Connell Foley LLP
Agnes Antonian, Esq., Chair of the Environmental Law Group

The establishment of New Jersey’s Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program was a breath of fresh air to many owners of contaminated properties, since it meant that they could use LSRPs to do their cleanup, instead of submitting to a
backlogged NJDEP review.

“But owners of certain contaminated properties who did not meet a May 2014—or, if extended, May 27, 2016— deadline to complete their remedial investigation lost that privilege,” explains Antonian. “As a result, environmental matters are driving even more
legal activity.”

One issue involves parties that did not meet the initial deadline. Many were working with attorneys to try to gain an extension by demonstrating that they acted in good faith, but missed the deadline due to circumstances beyond their control, such as discovering thatthe contamination was worse than initially thought, or they were delayed by natural disasters.

“If the second deadline was missed, parties must navigate, with the help of legal counsel, involving burdensome obligations under direct oversight of the NJDEP,” she explains. “Those that met their deadline are now racing with the assistance of their lawyers to meet their deadlines for completion of remedial action.”

Other developments—such as a recent interpretation by the state Site Remediation
Professional Licensing Board that clarified the meaning of “independent professional judgment”—have also prompted more individuals and businesses to contact their lawyers for advice, she adds.
That’s not all. The lingering issue of complex, multi-party sediment site cleanups—which encompasses major polluted waterways—took on new urgency with the recent appointment of Scott Pruitt as USEPA administrator.

“Administrator Pruitt has made it clear that he wants to speed up the cleanup of Superfund and other contaminated sites,” says Antonian. “It’s unclear what impact that will have on these complex sites.” She reports that another important site remediation issue, which is handled directly by the NJDEP, is the remediation of orphan “chromium” sites. One such site, a property in North Jersey, is owned by a Connell Foley client. It was contaminated with chromium—a hard and brittle metal that resists tarnishing—in the 1950s when chrome historic fill material was used as bedding for a sewer
pipeline crossing the property.

“Our law firm has worked with the state and one of the former companies responsible for the cleanup of the contamination,” she says. “Because the chromium is so deep, a seal is being established over it, and we have implemented appropriate deed restrictions to prevent contact with the buried contaminated soil in the future.”

In addition to matters involving contaminated sites in New Jersey, Connell Foley is also involved in a heated land use case in Long Beach Township, where the firm is fighting federal, state and local agencies on behalf of three clients.

“The parties we represent own adjoining beachfront residential properties,” she explains. “The federal government previously funded some dune replenishment in front of the properties, and now officials want our clients to open up an easement on their land to create a public beach over private property in an area surrounded by rarely used public beaches. We’re defending the property owners in this case, to protect their individual rights to private property and prevent unauthorized government interference
with those rights.”

GWS Environmental Contractors Inc.
Eric Sinha, CHMM, Project Manager

New Jersey has its share of environmental issues, and one significant concern involves vapor intrusion—a silent process where contaminants in the soil or ground water, such as radon, methane and other volatile contaminants—can migrate from the sub-surface
to the indoor air above contaminated sites, according to Eric Sinha, project manager at GWS Environmental Contractors Inc.

The firm offers environmental remediation services, including tank removals, soil and ground water remediation, vapor intrusion mitigation, and other environmental contracting services to commercial and residential customers.

“New Jersey is a densely populated state, and the increasing lack of developable land contributes to a drive to redevelop contaminated sites,” he says. “Of course, that means the developers of those properties have to manage the accompanying environmental
issues that come with the properties.”

When it comes to mitigating vapor intrusion, the contamination is compounded by the fact that most new building construction is well-sealed, which is good for reducing energy waste, but also means that vapors are less likely to be dissipated by
air movement through the buildings. Instead, it tends to remain in the structures.

“The NJDEP has promulgated regulations that define indoor air quality for both residential and commercial structures,” Sinha explains. “But with more former industrial sites being repurposed as residential multifamily housing units and office spaces, the need for achieving NJDEP residential indoor air quality standards is more important than ever, both for mitigating known and current vapor intrusion risks and for potential
contamination from other sites.”

Fortunately, there are many methods and products that can be used to address the problem, says Sinha. “In the case of new construction, vapors can be suppressed by either installing an impermeable barrier or void space beneath the slab prior to pouring it. In the case of existing construction, the slab may be sealed using coatings. Both existing and new construction vapor mitigation systems require venting vapors out to the open.”

Venting involves installing sets of PVC pipes in or under a building’s slab bottom, and through the attic out to the roof. “The contaminated gases have already made their way through rock and soil, so either way they’re going to be released,” he explains. “At least we can direct them away from a living area or work space.”

GWS Environmental is currently installing 250,000 square feet of Cupolex— a sub-slab vent that is dome-shaped and creates a sub-slab void space to collect and dilute contaminants in a 27-building residential project that’s going up on a former industrial site in Avenel.

“Fans in the attic of each building will draw the vapors up and vent them away,” says Sinha. “As the population of New Jersey continues to increase, more projects like this are in the works, and the demand for vapor mitigation and other environmental remediation services is likely to continue to grow.”

Equity Environmental Engineering
Peter Jaran, P.E., LSRP, Managing Director

Companies that tackle environmentally sensitive projects in New Jersey face at least two key issues, according to Peter Jaran, managing director of Equity Environmental
Engineering, an environmental engineering and planning consulting firm.

“The first involves complying with the maze of regulations that local, state and federal agencies have in place,” he says. “The second, which is almost as challenging, is keeping up with the blizzard of changes and new guidance from the NJDEP and other agencies. One way we keep up is by staying involved with the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey’s Environmental Business Council. The other way is by networking with Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs) and other people in
the environmental industry, whether regulators, consultants or contractors that we’ve come to know through the years.”

But it’s not just the volume of paperwork, Jaran adds. “One frustrating condition sometimes occurs after an LSRP completes a site remediation and then
submits a Response Action Outcome (RAO) to the NJDEP, detailing the closeout
of the remediation.”

The RAO should mark the end of the project, “however, on occasion, the NJDEP may come back with questions, months or up to three years later, which can be very frustrating and, in some cases, undermines the purpose of the LSRP program.”

Other issues include an emerging one involving per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances,
or PFAS. The designation covers a diverse group of compounds—resistant to heat, water and oil—that are used in a range of products, including carpeting, apparel, upholstery, food, paper, fire-fighting foams and metal plating.

“Normally we deal with detecting a contaminant concentration of parts per million or even billion,” says Jaran. “But the USEPA’s new regulations for PFAS establish detection levels of parts per trillion. This will be a large effort going forward, and for many years.”

Brilliant Environmental Services LLC
Philip I. Brilliant, CHMM, LSRP, Owner

The list of environmental regulations continues to grow, according to Philip I. Brilliant, owner of Brilliant Environmental Services LLC. He points out that revised water testing
requirements issued by the state Department of Children and Families could put child care centers across the state on the spot.

“Rules that went into effect require all child care centers that use public water systems to sample their water for copper and lead,” he says. “We’re doing a lot of water testing to ensure compliance. So far none of the ones we’ve checked have returned a ‘positive’—which would indicate contaminants—but since many public schools in the
state tested positive, it’s probably only a matter of time until a child care center turns up a positive result. That could be expensive for them to remediate.”

The centers are required to test their water from all faucets and other sources
used for drinking water or food preparation, and at least 50 percent of all indoor water faucets, he explains. They must to do the testing at the time of their initial application, at any renewal application, when an existing licensed center is relocated and at the discretion of the state Department of Children and Families’ Office of Licensing.

Regardless of their position in the licensing cycle, Brilliant says that all centers should go ahead and schedule the tests. “You know the requirement’s there, so you might as well get it done,” he counsels. “Also, if there is a problem, it’s better to take care of it sooner, so the children’s exposure isn’t prolonged.”

His firm is also keeping busy by helping persons responsible for remediation who are facing cleanup deadlines.

“Under New Jersey’s Site Remediation Reform Act, the NJDEP may take on direct oversight of certain cleanups that have not complied with the remediation deadlines by May 7, 2019,” he says. “We’ve been engaged to move along projects that involve removing or capping contaminated soil to beat the deadline. In some cases, the LSRP may be able to get an extension, but that’s subject to a case-by-case review by the
NJDEP.”

Dewberry
Ileana S. Ivanciu, Senior Vice President for Environmental Services

“New Jersey recognizes the urgent environmental issue of protecting our cities and citizens from storm surge and rainfall flooding,” according to Ileana Ivanciu, senior vice
president for Environmental Services at Dewberry, a national engineering and design firm. “We recently led the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the $230-million Rebuild By Design Hudson River project,” an urban storm water management strategy.

Ileana Ivanciu

The EIS process included a thorough consideration of “social, economic, engineering,
and environmental factors with an extensive outreach, including resource agency coordination and public involvement,” she adds.

The Rebuild By Design Hudson River project itself is centered in the City of Hoboken, and will extend into Weehawken and Jersey City. “It takes a multifaceted approach intended to address flooding from both major storm surges and high tides, as well as from heavy rainfall events,” explains Ivanciu. “The proposed project is designed
to minimize the impacts from storm surge and rainfall flood events on the
community, including adverse impacts to public health, while providing benefits that will enhance the urban condition, and recognizing the unique challenges that exist within a highly developed urban area.”

Dale Group Inc.
Dan Borgna, Vice President, Environmental Division

The landmark legislation that streamlined environmental cleanups in New Jersey—
the Site Remediation Reform Act of 2009 (SRRA)—has helped to speed a reported 10,000 environmental cleanups that might have otherwise stalled, according to published reports.

Still, recent updates to the SRRA have muddied the waters a bit, according to Dan Borgna, vice president of the Environmental Division of Dale Group Inc., a specialized insurance broker for environmental service firms. “Before the SRRA, it was up to the NJDEP to review and sign off on all environmental investigations and cleanups,” he
explains. “The sheer volume of reviews the agency had to do resulted in a tremendous backlog and slowed down the pace of remediation.”

Many developers welcomed the SRRA, which enabled them to hire trained, private- sector Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs) who could conduct required investigations, oversee the appropriate remedial activity, and then make their own determination as to when the site was considered “clean” for its intended future use. This seemed to be an efficient mechanism for moving contaminated sites through the cleanup process.

“Owners of contaminated properties are generally required to foot the remediation costs and, until recently, they could pay for the cleanup—which could take multiple years—as it progressed,” says Borgna. “However, under the SRRA, the NJDEP requires property owners to verify a ‘funding source’ and ‘financial assurance’ to cover the full estimated
cleanup cost up front, which sometimes runs into millions of dollars. This can create a major cash flow issue for most property owners.”

A “funding source” can be established with the creation of a trust, a letter of credit, a line of credit or an insurance policy. “While an insurance policy could be a cost-effective route, the insurance carriers have serious concerns about charging a relatively small premium for what amounts to a large cleanup exposure should something go wrong
with either the cleanup or the financial stability of the property owner,” he explains.

“Initially, a surety bond was something that we thought could be considered because of its lower cost and impact on cash flow, but bonds were not something the NJDEP was willing to accept at that time,” says Borgna. “We continue to speak with the NJDEP,
but right now there aren’t any good solutions.”

New Jersey-based companies that have direct labor working in New York State can also present insurance issues for environmental service firms. Companies that specialize in removal of asbestos, for example, have been some of the hardest hit.

“New York has some of the toughest labor laws in the country, and asbestos abatement companies in the surrounding states will often cross over into New York because that’s where the work is,” Borgna reports. “Think of it; removal of asbestos requires very cumbersome sealed suits with respirators. They then scurry up and down ladders and scaffolding, which sometimes leads to a fall. In most states, the injured employee’s
sole remedy would be to file a claim under its employer’s work comp policy to pay for the medical costs. In a case like that, the employer is then shielded from any further action.”

But under certain New York labor laws—sometimes referred to as the scaffolding laws—an injured employee may also be able to bring a suit against the property owner for failure to provide a safe work environment. “That property owner will then file a third-party action against the injured worker’s employer, seeking additional insured protection,” says Borgna. “What should have been a simple work comp claim has made its way around to the employer’s General Liability policy.”

As a result, General Liability insurance rates for asbestos and other contracting companies have quadrupled, he adds. In turn, this has priced some employers out
of the New York market, “particularly those working in the five boroughs of New York City where most of the cases are filed. This is an ongoing challenge.”

Covanta
Margretta E. Morris, Vice President, Materials Management & Community Affairs
One of the biggest environmental issues in New Jersey involves greenhouse gases and their effect on climate change, according to Margretta E. Morris, vice president, Materials Management & Community Affairs at Covanta, a global company that
provides sustainable waste and energy solutions.

“The Earth’s climate is changing in response to the increasing amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, with roughly one-third of all GHG emissions being associated with various stages of materials management,” she explains. “This includes
extracting raw materials, making them into products and dealing with manufacturing waste and end-of-life disposal.”

New Jersey currently recycles 40 percent of its waste, but is still sending 75 percent of the remaining waste—more than 4 million tons—to landfills, says Morris. “Landfills
are the largest source of man-made methane, which has been found to be over 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide according to the International Panel on Climate Change. By following the waste management hierarchy—waste reduction and reuse,
recycling and energy recovery—and in addition, recognizing waste as a resource, we can reduce the number of products we have to make from new materials, lessen our dependence on fossil fuel fired electricity and keep material out of landfills.”

Some positive steps are being taken. “The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is working to improve energy resiliency and the emergency preparedness by establishing a number of microgrids throughout the state,” says Morris. “Covanta, along with the Camden County Municipal Utility Authority (CCMUA), is working to connect our
waste-to-energy facility with their wastewater treatment facility and other critical
facilities within the City of Camden.”

She says this unique “microgrid” system, which can act independent of or in parallel with the main power grid would provide electric power to CCMUA from Covanta and, in turn, provide treated waste water to Covanta, “allowing us to reduce our use of potable water and reduce stress on the local aquifer system. The BPU-sponsored microgrid will
be an exceptional model of public/private collaboration and sustainability that will increase efficiency and resiliency for critical utility infrastructure.”

The company is also engaged in other environmental projects. “Covanta Essex in Newark recently completed an extensive emissions control system upgrade for its three boilers, replacing electrostatic precipitators with state-of-the-art ‘baghouses’ that remove particulate matter from combustion gases,” she explains. “Similar to a household vacuum cleaner, but on a larger scale, a baghouse is equipped with fabric filters that capture dust, particles and other pollutants.”

While the facility operated well below its permit limits with the former system and was never out of compliance, the upgraded emissions control technology has improved the environmental performance of the facility even further, lowering some emissions by more than 90 percent.

“The facility also supports the local community by providing a sustainable waste management system that processes 2,800 tons of municipal solid waste per day into approximately 65 megawatts of clean energy,” says Morris. “This is enough to power 45,000 homes annually.”

Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis LLP
David B. Farer, Esq., Chair, Environmental Department

In the face of federal inaction on climate change and greenhouse gases, “New Jersey
should resume its role as an environmental leader and join states such as California and New York that have committed to take the reduction of greenhouse
gas emissions into their own hands,” says David B. Farer, chair of the Environmental Department of the law firm Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis LLP, and immediate past
president of the American College of Environmental Lawyers. The state should also

Hands holding new growth plant. Mature man in the garden.

“retake its seat among our sister states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and recommit to reduction in carbon dioxide emissions pursuant to the RGGI’s cap and trade program,” he adds, noting that coastal flooding and other natural disasters should also be top priorities for New Jersey officials.

“Sandy is five years behind us and we have yet to fully recover,” Farer reports. “The disasters of Harvey and Irma again thrust the dangers front and center as just the latest examples of severe weather events. The coasts must be protected and fortified.”

LAN Associates
Chris Guddemi, P.L.S., LEED AP BD+CS, Director of Land Use Regulation Services

“Flooding is a major issue in New Jersey,” says Chris Guddemi, director of land use regulation services at LAN Associates, an architecture and engineering services firm. “There are actually two types: tidal flooding, like we saw with Superstorm Sandy where
ocean waters surged and flooded coastal areas; and riverine flooding, where an excess rainfall can cause rivers like the Passaic, Raritan or Delaware to spill over their banks and threaten inland areas.”

Fortunately, he adds, the NJDEP is “unique in the way it regulates development in or near flood hazard areas. FEMA distributes flood maps that establish risks for neighborhoods—and insurance companies use them to help set rates—but just because you’re not in a FEMA-designated flood area doesn’t mean you’re safe.”

Instead, Guddemi says, under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, the NJDEP “considers any water course with a drainage area greater than 50 acres as being at risk of floods, and regulates any development in those districts. It’s more conservative than FEMA’s approach.”

He notes that this approach played a big role when LAN worked with an elementary school in Middlesex County that “was in dire need of additional office and classroom space. Although the institution was not on any FEMA flood map, streams ran through the property and the NJDEP deemed it at risk of flooding.”

LAN Associates developed a computerized “stream model” that predicted possible water runoff based on past extreme weather events, and submitted it to the NJDEP, which verified the calculations. “The school incorporated our calculations into the design for the addition so it would not encroach into the flood hazard area we had modeled.”

Rutter & Roy, LLP
Christine Roy, Esq., Partner

Christine Roy, Esq., a partner in the law firm of Rutter & Roy, LLP, represents major interstate natural gas pipeline companies, advising them on various aspects of construction projects, including Green Acres diversions and streamlining the regulatory process to prevent delays.

“Most people don’t realize that a great number of Green Acres tracts have utilities or pipelines on them,” explains Roy. “Many of these were built during the 1950s, when the properties were not preserved. This is yet another example of why it can be extremely difficult to identify Green Acres restricted land.”

The Green Acres Program was created 55 years ago to protect open space and natural resources. As part of the NJDEP, the program has preserved more than 680,000 acres since it was founded.

“Green-Acres restricted properties are not always easy to identify because many times they are not listed in the public records,” explains Roy.

The Recreation and Open Space Inventory (ROSI) is the master list of Green Acres-encumbered properties in each municipality for both funded and unfunded parkland.

“There are any number of reasons why the municipality may not have reported it or it is property owned by a nonprofit organization that is not required to submit a ROSI,” says Roy. “We’ve found that determining a property’s designation requires in-depth research
and knowing what to look for.”

Rutter & Roy uses an internal checklist that includes the ROSI, title search and information from the municipality, as well as Green Acres files and records in Trenton.

“From the outset, we presume that if it’s municipally owned land, it’s Green-Acres restricted land. While there is a great deal of municipally owned property that is not designated as Green Acres, we always begin with the presumption that the property
is Green Acres-restricted.”

The law firm has been doing these searches for more than 30 years.

“Ultimately, the designation is determined by having a conversation with the local unit (i.e. county, township, etc.),” explains Roy. “But we’ve seen gray areas where information was not readily available, and the towns involved could not accurately determine a property’s designation. If we cannot reach an agreement with the
local unit, we turn to the Green Acres staff to make the final determination in
conjunction with the local unit.”