Digital Collage by Alana Burman

By Martin Milita

  • New Jersey is increasing its regulation of soil and fill recycling businesses. 

A law signed into effect by Governor Murphy on January 21, 2020, requires soil and fill recycling businesses to go through what is commonly called “the A-901” solid waste licensing program. The program was adopted many years ago in response to the infiltration of organized crime into the solid waste business by ensuring through an in-depth licensing regime that those engaged in the business of solid waste in New Jersey have the requisite integrity, reliability, expertise and competence.

  • What you need to know.

The A-901 licensing program typically requires that businesses apply for and obtain an A-901 license before operating, but in order to avoid interfering with ongoing business operations, the new law sets out a two stage process to expand the A-901 licensing program to businesses that are already engaged in soil and fill recycling.

  • Timing is everything.

Soil and fill recycling businesses first will need to register with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection by April 20, 2020; while the registration form has not yet been made available, the information that will need to be included on the form includes basic information, such as the name of the business and its address.

  1. Nevertheless, it is possible that complex issues will arise for certain businesses at this stage based on specific circumstances. 
  2. Any business that submits the registration form will receive a registration from the State within 90 days.  This registration is non-transferable and temporarily authorizes the registered business to continue operating its soil and fill recycling business while the business applies for a soil and fill recycling license.

Businesses then will need to submit an application for a soil and fill recycling license, which is akin to an A-901 license.  If the business has a soil and fill registration and it submits the license application by October 17, 2020, it may continue operating until it receives a decision on the license, which is likely to take 12 -18 months or more.  If the business does not obtain a registration by April 20th, it will need to submit an application and obtain a license before it can operate or continue to operate.  As with the registration form, the details of the application have not yet been released, but it is anticipated that the license application will be consistent with the current A-901 license application.  The A-901 application is a detailed disclosure form with many questions that cover a wide variety of topics.  It is important to answer all application questions thoroughly and completely, as the State will follow up on any incomplete questions, which could delay issuance of the license.

  • Who must comply.

The soil and fill recycling businesses that must comply with these new requirements include, with certain exceptions, all businesses engaged in the collection, transportation, processing, brokering, storage, purchase, sale or disposition of soil and fill recyclable materials.  Soil and fill recyclable materials are defined, in turn and again with certain exceptions, as “non-putrescible aggregate substitute, including, but not limited to, broken or crushed brick, block, concrete, or other similar manufactured materials; soil or soil that may contain aggregate substitute or other debris or material, generated from land clearing, excavation, demolition or redevelopment activities that would otherwise be managed as solid waste . . . .”

  • New definition of broker.

The new law clarifies that the A-901 solid waste licensing program applies to brokers, and provides a new definition of a broker (i.e., a person who for direct or indirect compensation arranges for certain services involving solid waste, hazardous waste, or soil and fill recycling).  According to an NJDEP Enforcement Alert from 2014 focusing on solid and hazardous waste: “A broker does not transport solid or hazardous waste and does not assume responsibility for its transport. Examples of brokers include shipping agents and management companies that coordinate cleaning and maintenance services for ships, apartments, condo associations and retail establishments.”  This Enforcement Alert shows just how broadly NJDEP is likely to interpret the definition of a broker.

  • Includes consultants.

The new law also specifies that consultants are included within the A-901 licensing program if the consultant assists a business engaged in services relating to solid and hazardous waste or soil and fill recycling, unless the consulting services being provided require the consultant to hold another professional license from the State.  For instance, a licensed attorney.  A licensed site remediation professional assisting a soil and fill recycling business by conducting soil sampling should not be required to obtain an A-901 license.

  • Increased burden on those that already have an A-901.

These changes increase the burden on BOTH new applicants for soil and fill recycling licenses, and businesses that already have an A-901 license. Thus current licensees should prepare to include information regarding associated brokers and consultants in their next annual disclosure update.  The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is likely to update its rules and regulations regarding solid waste licensing as a result of the new legislation; these regulatory updates, along with the forthcoming registration form and application will provide further clarity regarding the implementation of the new legislation.

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