Environmental Infrastructure Trust bills released

TRENTON – The Assembly Environment Committee released a trio of bills that deal with the Environmental Infrastructure Trust. All three were released unanimously.

A4183: This bill appropriates about $780 million toward projects in the fiscal year 2014 New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program.

Approximately $333 million in combined Department of Environmental Protection and NJEIT loans will be available for clean water project loans and $58 million for drinking water project loans under the Traditional Financing Program.

The 2013 Clean Water State Revolving Fund grant is $50 million, and the 2013 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grant is anticipated to be approximately $14 million.

A4184: This bill authorizes the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to expend up to $780.3 million and any unexpended balances from previous authorizations to provide loans with an interest rate at or below the prevailing market rate.

The beneficiaries would be project sponsors (primarily local governments) for a portion of the total costs of 165 eligible environmental infrastructure projects.

A4185: The bill increases the statutory debt ceiling of the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust by establishing a debt ceiling of $5 billion for the Disaster Relief Emergency Financing Program, a new program established in the bill. 

The present debt ceiling for obligations issued for all other purposes of the Trust would remain at $2.8 billion. 

The statutory date after which the Trust may not incur any additional indebtedness is extended by two calendar years to June 30, 2033.

Dave Zimmer of the NJEIT said that the trust makes subsidized low-cost loans.  He said they anticipate $228 million from a federal law signed in January and $75 million in new federal capital grants.

Regarding the disaster relief program, he said, projects have to be listed and then submitted to the Legislature. The cap of $2.8 billion for traditional programs is maintained; the cap for disaster relief efforts would be $5 billion, he said.

Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club told the panel that although the money is needed, there is no mention of climate change as an issue, and that too much power is given to one person, the commissioner of DEP. He said emergency orders allowing rebuilding in the same way and in the same place are shortsighted.

Jim Walsh of Food and Water Watch said another concern is investing public money in private water companies without a guarantee consumer costs will be offset. 

Environmental Infrastructure Trust bills released