END CHEMICAL USE EXEMPTION FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?

In 1983, New Jersey passed the Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act (“ECRA”). The first of its kind, the act required that industrial cites be investigated and cleaned-up when, among other things, a business is sold. A short time later, New Jersey replaced ECRA with the Industrial Site Recovery Act (“ISRA”), which had the same fundamental effect of mandating clean-up of industrial sites. Currently, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) is thinking about getting rid of an exemption for small, household uses of hazardous substances. This exemption allows small businesses that only use harsh chemicals in routine ways, such as cleaning, to avoid the strict requirements of heavy-duty environmental laws aimed at industrial corporations. Many small businesses wouldn’t be able to afford the costly investigations and clean-ups required by these laws.

On the other hand, environmentalists say that it doesn’t matter how small the amount of chemicals spilled is, it all hurts the natural habitats of plants and animals.

It seems to me that the NJDEP would do well to avoid trying to micromanage every bottle of floor cleaner. Its limited resources should be focused on the real culprits.