Bills dealing with sewer overflows, flame retardants, more cleared in Senate Energy Comm.

TRENTON – A bill that would authorize a county, town or authority to regulate combined sewer overflows to manage storm water runoff (S1557) was released from the Environment and Energy Committee by a 3-1 vote on Monday morning. The bill would also authorize the government entities to impose fees.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), of Piscataway, said that even though the governor vetoed a similar storm water utility bill, he hoped to “raise this up the flag pole and see what happens.”

Sen. Christopher Bateman, (R-16), of Somerville, voted no, saying he was concerned about implementing another fee related to storm water runoff.

Sara Bluhm of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association spoke out in opposition of the bill, and said, “companies are already overburdened with mandates and different DEP permits.”

Representatives from the Meadowlands Commission and New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club spoke out in favor of the bill.

“I look at this as a jobs bill, not a storm water bill,” said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Other bills addressed:

– S1554, a bill to prohibit the sale, lease, distribution, and manufacture of products containing decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), a flame retardant chemical, was continued to a later committee meeting so more testimony could be taken on the measure. Smith is the sponsor of the legislation.

– Bill S495, which establishes the Lake Hopatcong Fund, was also unanimously released from committee. The bill calls for $400,000 in annual state funding to help maintain Lake Hopatcong, the largest freshwater lake in the state. The lake is overrun with weeds due to the effects of storm water runoff, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Anthony Bucco, (R-25), of Denville, who spoke at the committee hearing in support of his bill.

– S1355, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Christopher Bateman, (R–16), of Somerville, and Robert Gordon, (D-38), of Fair Lawn, was also released from committee unanimously. The bill requires plans for projects that involve the removal of soil from a contaminated site to include a statement provided by a laboratory using sampling methods by the Department of Environmental Protection specifying the level of contamination found at the site.

– The committee unanimously released S1556, also sponsored by Smith, which clarifies the definition of “on-site generation facility” in the “Electric Discount Energy Competition Act.” The bill would clarify that an on-site generation facility would be “considered contiguous to an end-use customer if they are geographically located next to each other but are otherwise separated by more than one road, easement, or right-of-way,” according to the bill’s statement.

– The committee also unanimously released S1555, sponsored by Smith. The bill would, among other things, establish planning requirements for entities with general permits for combined sewer systems. The bill would also create a “Combined Sewer Overflow Solutions Fund” in the DEP to fund efforts to prevent Combined Sewer Overlows. Bills dealing with sewer overflows, flame retardants, more cleared in Senate Energy Comm.