New Jersey Rail Waste Facilities Settle 4-Year Legal Battle

Date: October 22, 2008

Source: News Room

Corzine Applauds New Rail Side Waste Transfer Measures

  • Legislation Will Protect Health, Safety and Environment

October 20, 2008

Governor Jon S. Corzine today praised members of New Jersey's federal delegation along with state officials for their success in a four year battle to protect the health and safety of New Jersey's citizens and the environment from rail side waste transfer stations operating outside of the law.

"For residents and workers in New Jersey and around the nation, this is an enormous victory" said Governor Corzine, who introduced the legislation with Senator Lautenberg when he served in the Senate. "This legislation clarifies a federal law that operators have exploited in order to accept thousands of tons of trash daily at open dumps near homes, businesses, motels and restaurants. More importantly, thanks to a cooperative effort of local, state and federal officials, our citizens and our communities are now protected from those who seek to evade oversight and regulation."

On Thursday, President Bush signed legislation that included language from the "Clean Railroads Act of 2008," sponsored by Senators Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), requiring solid waste facilities along railroad tracks to meet state and local guidelines for health, safety and environmental protection. The federal legislation caps a campaign that began in 2004, when officials from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection sought to regulate the rail side facilities, in which haulers unload construction debris and other solid waste so that it could be carted to out-of-state dumps by train. The state called on the operators to install fire-suppression systems and other safety equipment, along with pollution controls, and fined five facilities $2.5 million for environmental violations. Railroad officials claimed federal transportation laws exempted them from local and state controls.

"These facilities cannot operate outside of the law, without sprinkler systems or, in some cases, marked safety exits," said Joseph V. Doria, Jr., Department of Community Affairs Commissioner and Chairman of the NJMC. "This settlement puts a stop to those unacceptable practices and gives us the tools to ensure residents, workers and first responders are protected from fire hazards, pollution and other dangers."

"Senator Lautenberg and New Jersey's congressional team have shown tremendous leadership in crafting this legislation, which gives the DEP the authority to ensure rail waste-transfer stations are held to the same tough environmental standards as all solid waste facilities," DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said. "Everyone's goal since the beginning has been to protect the health, safety and environment of our residents."

The battle to regulate these North Jersey facilities became a nationwide issue when six other states filed briefs to support New Jersey's legal challenge to the railroad's activities.

For More Information:
Robert Corrales
Phone: 609-777-2600


NJMC/North Bergen Statement on Rail Bill Victory

Oct. 20, 2008

New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) Executive Director Robert Ceberio and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco issued the following statements in conjunction with press releases issued by the Governor's Office and members of New Jersey's federal delegation on Monday. The releases detail the state's victory in an effort launched four years ago by the NJMC and North Bergen to protect residents, workers and the environment from railside waste transfer facilities operating without regulation.

The victory involves two parts and caps a battle that began in 2004, when the NJMC first tried to regulate what had become open-air dumps - with no safety or environmental protections - alongside the tracks in Hudson County. Five separate facilities were operating within a two-mile stretch of North Bergen.

First, the NJMC, with help from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General's Office, reached a settlement with the operators of these five sites to meet state solid waste and local health and safety regulations. It also calls for the operators to pay $1 million to the state and refund to North Bergen $1 million held in escrow.

Second, Pres. Bush signed a law last week that extends similar protections to communities across the nation. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, (both D-NJ), and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, (D-Long Branch, 6th District), in the House, requires all railside waste facilities to follow local and state regulations. Operators had used an unclear federal law to claim they were exempt from this oversight.

"We cannot return to the dark ages of illegal dumping in the Meadowlands, when waste fires smoldered and unknown chemicals oozed into our fragile ecosystem. This is the 21st century, and all businesses need to operate in a safe, environmentally sound manner," said Robert Ceberio, Executive Director of the NJMC. "The combined effort of everyone from state Sen. Nick Sacco, the mayor of North Bergen, to Gov. Corzine and Sen. Lautenberg will go a long way toward protecting the Meadowlands as it continues to recover and grow."

"Our focus from the start has been to work with the Meadowlands Commission to protect the safety of our residents and the environmental integrity of the region," says North Bergen Mayor Nicholas J. Sacco. "To see these facilities now meeting DEP standards is an enormous step forward from where we were just a few years ago."

For more information, contact:
Brian Aberback, Public Information Officer
New Jersey Meadowlands Commission
(201) 460-4619
(201) 615-8570 (cell)

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