New Jersey Must Share Records to Protect Buyers and Facilitate Responsible Development
The state has a responsibility to protect its workers, the environment, and local economic development, and with appropriate safety measures in place, it can accomplish all three by increasing transparency and sharing environmental records with the public.
When Governor Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency on March 9, a number of state offices were shuttered that New Jerseyans rely on to conduct essential oversight and share information with the public. Among these was the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and, notably, the department’s Office of Record Access (ORA), which buyers in commercial real estate transactions need to access in order to make informed decisions about a property’s environmental health and history.
Because New Jersey law designates current owners strictly liable for environmental issues on their property, no matter how or by whom they were created, environmental records furnished through the ORA are essential for buyers to be sure that sellers are not passing environmental liability onto them. Wary buyers are delaying or backing out of deals—or dangerously moving ahead without knowing whether they could become responsible for arranging an environmental cleanup and footing the bill. Delayed action on environmental issues, risks for buyers, and massive tax revenue deferrals and losses through broken deals are the dismal results.
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