Legislative Initiatives to Reduce Stormwater Runoff, Part 3

Legislative Initiatives to Reduce Stormwater Runoff, Part 3

March 17, 2011 15:37

It appears that the sponsors of the legislation recognized that behavioral change is more likely to occur successfully when positive reinforcement is provided rather than simply mandating compliance with change.  To that end the proposed legislation seeks to create positive financial incentives to spur private development projects that would reduce stormwater runoff through the use of Green or Blue roofs.

A3682:  Would provide low interest loans to private parties to build green or blue roofs

Many jurisdictions provide financial incentives for “Green” or sustainable design and construction.  This bill would amend the law known as the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” to allow funds from the “Global Warming Solutions Fund” to be used to extend low interest loans to private parties, including homeowners and owners of commercial, industrial, and institutional entities.

Material terms of the loans would require: a) that they be made for no more than 85% of the cost of the Green or Blue roof; b) that the term not exceed 20 years; c) that the interest rate be low, and not to exceed 4%; and d) that loans be secured by a promissory note that requires the loan to be repaid if the property is sold or transferred or that requires the purchaser to assume the loan.

In addition to specifying which agencies would be responsible for the financial aspects, broad powers are being given to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Community Affairs to oversee and review construction to ensure compliance with the standards that are established.

This incentive is no doubt socially desirable.  However, given the fiscal crisis that is faced by New Jersey, and many other states, it is questionable whether financial resources will be available to fund this program at any meaningful level.  There have already been efforts to erode the Global Warming Solutions Fund and such efforts are likely to continue until the economic climate changes significantly.  

A3678:  Requires preferential ranking for projects that seek funding from an environmental infrastructure program

The least sexy of the companion bills, this would require the Department of Environmental Protection to provide a preferential ranking to projects that seek funding from an Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program to those projects that include Green or Blue roofs.  Hardly anything controversial in this bill.  For other states it provides an example of positive incentives that can be offered to developers of construction projects.

As set forth in this series of posts collectively these bills seek to address a serious problem that many are facing with respect to stormwater management.  These efforts have been noticed by environmental groups.  Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club observed: “It actually helps deal with something called combined sewer overflow which is very much a problem in urban older communities where a lot of rainwater comes off of roofs, gets into the sewer systems, and then the sewer systems cannot handle the higher flow.  So what happens is when you get heavy rainstorms, you get partially treated sewage and sometimes raw sewage going out into our rivers”.

Results of a study completed in 2009 by the Penn State Green Roof Center of Pennsylvania State University at University Park, PA indicated that, “green roofs are capable of removing 50% of the annual rainfall volume from a roof through retention and evapotranspiration”.  Accordingly, the effectiveness of Green roofs in combating excessive stormwater runoff cannot be denied.  [Green Roofs for Stormwater Runoff Control, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Publication EPA/600/R-09/026, February, 2009]

The extent to which these new measures, if the legislation passes, will assist in stormwater management and controlling water quality remains to be seen.  Two things are certain: 1) the stormwater problem and associated flooding is increasing; and 2)  New Jersey and other states are likely to require a change in design and construction in order to confront the problem.  Think about that the next time that flooding harms your neighbors or inconveniences you.  I know that I will.

Climate Change | Green Buildings | Weather

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