ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHORITIES AND THEIR

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					               Environmental Authorities and Their Association- AEA
                                By Ellen Gulbinsky, Executive Director

What are Authorities?

They are not the police and they are not the FBI - they are quasi-governmental entities established
by municipal or county governments for specific environmental or financial purposes. They are
authorities.

Because of limitations on bonded indebtedness of local governments it became necessary to provide
a vehicle to build and maintain water, wastewater and solid waste facilities. As new environmental
laws on the federal and state levels called for more sophisticated treatment of water and garbage, the
cost of facilities increased. Building an entirely new state of the art landfill or secondary wastewater
treatment plant could use all of a municipality's bonded indebtedness and still not be enough. Thus,
a separate entity with the power to sell bonds and the mandate to set fees so as to always maintain
the facilities properly was needed.


How do Authority Managers Stay Current on this Myriad of Laws & Regulations?

In 1971 several farsighted authority executive directors and their consultants formed an association
to network and share information which they needed to do their job better. The group was called the
Authorities Association of New Jersey. The meetings could have been held in a phone booth, so the
charter members say. Bonding and constructing facilities was a major concern. Meeting effluent
limits and getting straight answers from NJDEP officials was a continuous challenge.

As the twenty to thirty original members expanded, a newsletter was inaugurated and proved to be a
valuable communications tool. A part time executive director was hired to facilitate member
activity.

As legislative activity on the environmental front began to expand, it was necessary to hire a full
time lobbyist to keep the members informed and in touch with the lawmakers. Arthur Young was
the first lobbyist. His daughter, Kimberly Young Parent, merged his business with Public Strategies
Impact Inc. and Kim continued to follow in her dad's footsteps and represent the Association until
she retired. Today David Smith of the Princeton Public Affairs Groups and Ellen Gulbinsky serve
as AEA’s lobbyists supported by the lobbying efforts of the member volunteers.

Several committees immediately went to work to provide members with needed service. The
Legislative Committee reviewed bills; the Conference Committee planned and executed conference
details and selected speakers to bring information to members. The Technical Position Advisory
Committee reviewed proposed regulations and prepared consensus positions on pending
regulations. Dedicated and tireless volunteers have marked the success of the organization from its
beginning and, fortunately, the contribution of members continues to strengthen the Association
today.




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As members’ needs grew, it became apparent to the Association leadership that a full time
professional staff and permanent office were needed. In 1984, Ellen Gulbinsky became the first
Executive Director of AANJ (now AEA) and Maureen Sojka became Office Manager. Housed at
110 West State Street, across from the State House, a more aggressive liaison with the legislature
was forged, as well as liaison with NJDEP up the street.

With full time attention to Association business and dedicated volunteers, the Association grew in
numbers and expanded services to members. The newsletter got a new name, "The Authority
View," and expanded from eight to twenty eight pages. A comprehensive membership Directory
was published annually. A trade show was added to the annual conference and attendance grew
from 200 to 850.

The Association became active in public education and produced an 80-page teacher's guide on
wastewater treatment entitled "My World, My Water & Me!" The guide won an award from
USEPA. Teacher workshops were held around the state at authority facilities as a conscious effort
was made to proclaim the good environmental work of authorities.

In 1990, it became clear the people did not understand what authorities did. The heated and
publicized Clean Water Enforcement Act debate had placed AANJ on the negative industrial side.
The Association members were not viewed as environmental protectors. Thus, the need to change
the group's name and add the word "environmental" became imminent. The Association changed its
name from the Authorities Association of New Jersey to the Association of Environmental
Authorities. Believe it or not, this simple act has made a great deal of difference. Ears have now
opened to our opinions. When an organization comes into its third decade of existence, it can
become stale or move into decline unless reformed and revitalized. The Board followed a process to
arrive at a mission statement for the Association which is as follows:


AEA is a non profit association of publicly owned facilities providing environmental services to
the people of the State of New Jersey. The mission of AEA is to assist its members – who treat
wastewater, handle solid waste and supply the public with clean water – to pursue their common
goals of protecting and enhancing public health and the natural environment.


In 2001 in order to help serve the members more efficiently the Board established a web site:
www.AEANJ.ORG. The site provides up to date information on water, wastewater and solid
waste issues. News sources are EPA, DEP, DCA and the media, as well as resources provided to
the staff by members. AEA reviews the NJ Register and highlights any rule proposals that may
affect members.

The web site and computer technology have enabled AEA’s small staff of three to distribute
mountains of information to committee members and members in general. It also allows
members to ask questions and bring their latest news to the association staff.




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What is Ahead for Authorities?

Permit rules: In 1989, AEA filed a petition with DEP to reform the rules for the NJ Permit to
Discharge program. NJ had the most outdated and stringent permit program in the nation. Rules
were arbitrary and unsubstantiated by science. After 3 years and many meetings DEP proceeded to
readopt the Surface Water Quality Standards rules without using the latest science. AEA declared
this unacceptable and appealed the standards. In 1994, DEP signed a Consent Agreement with AEA
and promised to rewrite sections of the Surface Water Quality Standards; propose new regulations
and have them adopted by January 1, 1996.

The department failed to meet the deadline and has chosen to re-adopt the antiquated rules
unchanged until a task force of industrial and environmental interests gives guidance to the
department on key issues.

In 1997 AEA again presented comments on the rules to DEP and volunteers participated on the task
force which completed its work in July 1998. The department promulgated the famous Mega Rule
which has a combination of Water Quality Standards and watershed rules. The rule met with such
opposition that it was withdrawn and only the watershed portion was promulgated.

As of August 2000, a major public policy change was announced by Governor Whitman in
Executive Order 109. It stated that projects might go forward in existing sewer service areas but
would receive very stringent reviews in new areas. The issue of avoiding urban and suburban sprawl
overshadows the discussion of the quality of water resources. Popular thought is that stronger
control of point source discharges is the key to improving water quality statewide. DEP proposed
new watershed management planning rules that mirrored this trendy policy. AEA prepared
comments on the rule.

In 2003 DEP announced that the 0.1 phosphorous standard would be enforced. The department
offered a study protocol that permittees could use to determine whether phosphorous was limiting in
the discharge waterbody. The department has been reluctant to accept the results of those studies
and seems to leaning toward an arbitrary enforcement policy. AEA continues to organize the
permittees and keeps them informed of developments on the phosphorous front.

New water quality standards rules are anticipated in the fall of 2005.


Sustainability of Authorities

Authorities were formed as autonomous bodies to provide services to the community and to manage
the debt of facilities separately from municipal governments. This autonomy was necessary and
important in building New Jersey’s water, wastewater and solid waste management facilities.
Authority debt was independent of the municipality or county that formed the authority. Investors
who purchase authority bonds do so with this understanding. Therefore, although a recent law was
passed in 2004 that allows a municipality or county to absorb the debt of an authority if they
dissolved it, this power should be exercised carefully. The guiding focus should be saving
ratepayers money and providing adequate service. Often local politicians see the dissolving of an


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authority as a means to plug a budget gap by freeing the bond reserve. They fail to look at the
experienced management staff that is needed to remain in compliance with permitting requirements.
There is a definite advantage to having staff dedicated to utility management with a budget that
allows them to innovate and react quickly and to make necessary changes.

The good accomplished by the Local Authorities Act is in danger of being lost as more local
politicians ask for veto power of the authority’s actions and for representation on the authority
board. These actions would frustrate long range plans weaken the focus that the board should have
on the authority and only the authority.

Since authorities may be dissolved by the governing body which formed them, those entities have
ultimate control. Why do they need oversight? Therefore, the AEA opposes legislation that would
give a veto power over authority actions. Commissioners should be responsible for the decisions of
the authority. In spite of our lobbying efforts, County Executives in charter counties only have
legally won the right to item veto portions of minutes of the county created authority.


Expanded Facilities and More Bonding

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that for the years 2000 to 2019, annual costs for
investment will average between $11.6 billion and $20.1 billion for drinking water systems and
between $13.0 billion and $20.9 billion for wastewater systems.
Stormwater regulations and more stringent sludge regulations are ensuring an expanded role for
environmental authorities. Projects needed as a result of emerging environmental regulations
mentioned above have not been calculated.

Sludge management is tenuous as EPA and the Federal Department of Agriculture argue over who
should set standards and what the standards ought to be. Bills in Congress call for no exportation of
sludge and/or solid waste to other states. Rutgers University Cook College will not approve use of
clean sludge on cropland. Secondary and advanced wastewater treatment has doubled the state's
quantity of sludge since 1970. Clear direction for management of sludge remains in limbo. While
beneficial use advocates claim there are large markets for compost and sludge derived products,
consultants hired by authorities and the New Jersey recyclers find no such demand. The product and
its specific use must be identified before authorities can proceed with design of facilities to process
the sludge. The federal government and state must settle on the quality of sludge issues so that
authorities will know which management options are possible for them.
Complicating the sludge issue is the 0.1 phosphorous limit. As chemicals are added to wastewater
to remove sludge, the sludge receives more phosphorous. The sludge could then exceed limits for
the specific biosolids product or process and cause the authority to seek an alternative.

Effluent reuse is being discussed as a control on water allocation within regions of the state. How
well the public will embrace spray application of effluent on lands remains to be seen and the
economic viability of working with industry to reuse treated effluent is still uncertain.




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Solid Waste De-Regulation

DEP is asking for more rigorous recycling because the recycling percentages have dropped since
the Carbone decision. The federal courts declared flow control of solid waste in violation of free
trade. After numerous unsuccessful appeals by the New Jersey Attorney General, New Jersey’s
Solid Waste law changed. Authorities who hold debt for safely managing and capping old land fills
and for initiating comprehensive recycling programs will now be challenged to find methods to pay
the debt separately from tipping fees. State financial help has not been forthcoming and presently is
not being discussed. In July 2000, the New Jersey courts struck the use of environmental impact
charges by authorities. This change caused uncertainty as to how solid waste debt would be
financed.


The State Water Supply Master Plan

The draught of 2002 highlighted the outdated nature of the State Water supply Plan AEA’s former
president Harry Gerken helped graft agreements among the purveyors to distribute water to dry
areas of the state. Since then the AEA Water Committee has been talking with DEP about the new
Water Supply Plan. A number of members are serving on sub committees related to aspects of the
plan. One key area is reuse of effluent.


The Association Tackles These Issues

The Association is challenged to break the issues into bite-sized pieces and approach them in
several ways. Associations have always been formed on the premise that groups can accomplish
what individuals can not accomplish alone. It is this hope that calls volunteers to join and work
together through AEA.




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