TRENTON – Three pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Brian P. Stack that would allocate funds for projects supported by the Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Infrastructure Bank passed the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today.
One bill, S-2645, would provide that each bond, note or other obligation issued by the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (NJIB) for a combined sewer overflow project would mature not later than 45 years from the effective date thereof, as opposed to the typical 30 years for other environmental infrastructure projects. This change would allow municipalities to obtain less expensive financing for these very large and expensive projects. The change also reflects the fact that combined sewer overflow projects typically have a longer useful life than other environmental infrastructure projects.
“For over 30 years, the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank has had a positive impact on environmental infrastructure projects,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “This bill will update the loan system to allow municipalities to more easily obtain financing for projects that will improve water quality and drinking water supplies for New Jersey families.”
Since its creation in 1985, the NJIB in partnership with the Department of Environmental Protection has provided low‑cost New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program (NJEIFP) loans for the construction of environmental infrastructure projects that enhance and protect ground and surface water resources, ensure the safety of drinking water supplies and make possible responsible and sustainable economic development.
S-2646 would appropriate federal money to the Department of Environmental Protection to implement the NJEIFP. The program is expected to finance approximately $810 million in Super Storm Sandy and other environmental infrastructure projects.
“Funding environmental efforts will help ensure that we have responsible and sustainable economic development across the state,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “Our natural landscape and natural resources are some of our greatest assets and we must do everything in our power to protect them.”
The companion bill, S-2647, would give authorization to the NJIB to provide loans with an interest rate at or below market rate to project sponsors for a portion of the total cost of over 100 eligible environmental infrastructure projects.
“It is imperative to the future of New Jersey, the future of the country and the future of the world that we invest in green technology and work to protect the environment,” said Senator Stack (D-Hudson). “Funding these projects will allow us to improve water quality across the state and better protect our natural resources.”
To the extent that funds are available, principal forgiveness loans would be available for combined sewage overflow projects with a focus on green technology. For these projects, 50 percent of the loan will be forgiven, 25 percent of the loan will be interest free and 25 percent of the loan will be a trust market rate loan. Projects will be given priority based on their water quality benefit and project readiness.
Loans will also be available for storm water runoff mitigation projects in the Barnegat Bay Watershed to continue addressing its critical water quality issues. Principal forgiveness loans would also be available to improve drinking water systems, including lead line replacements in qualifying communities.
The bills, S-2645, S-2646 and S-2647, passed the Senate Environment and Energy Committee all by votes of 5-0. Next, S-2645, S-2646 and S-2647 head to the full Senate for further consideration.