Every year the Department of Environmental Protection publishes a proposed fee schedule for its water discharge (NJPDES) program. These fees are among the highest, if not the highest, in the nation. The fees have been topic of regulated community complaints for decades because their exorbitant cost makes New Jersey facilities less competitive with neighboring states, and because of the complex regulatory scheme on which they are calculated.
Ray Cantor, Vice President of Government Affairs, testified at the NJPDES fee hearing on Wednesday about this issue. Cantor has been pushing for reforms and has previously raised this issue directly with DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe, who had agreed to take action.
NJPDES fees are based on a complex set of factors that are unpredictable from year-to-year. They also impose significantly higher fees on particular entities for reasons that have no or little bearing to the cost to issue the permit or even the impact to the environment.
Even the DEP seems to agree with NJBIA’s position, but has not taken the necessary steps to fix the problem. In 2014, DEP held a hearing on a proposal to reform the fee structure and stated two main goals:
- Fees must be transparent and predictable from year-to-year. NO SURPRSIES.
- Create a fee structure that is easy to understand and takes minimal resources to administer.
NJBIA agrees, and also believes that additional changes can be made to bring down the cost of the higher permit fees. While it is too late to change the regulations in time to affect the current fee schedule, NJBIA hopes that the regulations can be amended in time for next year so that the fees are fairer, predictable, and affordable.