Highlights of the Siting Process in New Jersey

1980: At the behest of the Governors of three states which were then the repositories for all of the low-level radioactive waste generated in the country, and at the urging of the National Governors’ Association, Congress passes legislation that gives the states the responsibility for the disposal of the low-level waste generated within their borders. The law encourages the formation of interstate "compacts," or associations, to cooperate in managing and disposing of low-level radioactive waste on a regional basis. The law offers compacts approved by Congress the authority to restrict use of their regional disposal facilities to waste generated within the respective regions.

1985: The law is amended to spur movement on the part of the states, requiring states and compact regions not having disposal facilities to meet specific milestones and deadlines leading to the operation of new disposal facilities by 1993 and extending the operation of the three existing disposal sites through December 1992.


1983: New Jersey enacts the Northeast Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Compact Act.

January ‘86: The Northeast Compact is ratified by Congress. In addition to New Jersey and Connecticut, original members of the compact include Delaware and Maryland, which later defect and join the Appalachian Compact.

December ‘87: New Jersey and Connecticut are each designated by the Compact to host disposal facilities. The Regional Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility Siting Act becomes law.

August ‘88: The 11-member Siting Board and 13-member Advisory Committee on Radioactive Waste are constituted, having been appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate.

July ‘89: The Board hires Samuel Penza as its executive director and begins assembling a staff.

August ‘89: The Board awards a contract to EBASCO (later acquired by the Foster Wheeler Environmental Corporation) as its site research consultant, and to Holt, Ross and Yulish as public affairs consultant.

October ‘89: The Board, the Northeast Compact, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection meet with generators to discuss the siting process and the upcoming federal milestones. This is the first of many meetings with generators.

November ‘89: The Board issues preliminary siting criteria and conducts public hearings. These are the first of several sets of public forums designed to get public input into the siting process.

January ‘90: Public hearings are conducted on revised siting criteria and the proposed waste disposal plan.

March ‘90: The Board approves a "geographically neutral’ approach for screening and selecting sites for characterization

April ‘90: The Board adopts the final Siting Criteria Report, which lays out the criteria a disposal site must meet.

May ‘90: The Board adopts the Waste Disposal Plan, mandated by the Siting Act, which discusses waste projections, the decommissioning of the four nuclear power plants in New Jersey, and issues surrounding the transportation of low-level radioactive waste.

August ‘90: The Board sends Insight, the first in a series of quarterly newsletters, to officials across the state.

November ‘90: The Board begins its public outreach effort with an information booth at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities convention. This is the first of many such appearances by the Board-before civic, environmental, governmental, and educational groups-the goal of which is to familiarize community leaders with the issues of low-level radioactive waste disposal, the role of the Board in effecting a solution for New Jersey, and the mechanics of the siting process.

April ‘91: The Board sponsors forums held at Cook College, Rutgers University, aimed at giving local officials and health officers background information about low-level waste and the siting effort in New Jersey, and getting feedback from these leaders on the issues.

June ‘91: The Siting Act is amended, with the active support of generators, authorizing the Board to assess and collect fees from generators for all costs related to the Board’s operation, including site selection and construction.

December ‘91: The Board conducts public hearings on its proposed fee assessment rule.

February ‘92: The Board adopts its fee assessment rule. The Board and Advisory Committee commence discussions concerning a voluntary siting program, and establish a subcommittee to explore the feasibility of such an approach.

May ‘92: The Siting Board sends its first fee assessment bills totaling just under $13 million, to generators.

June ‘92: Generators organize as the New Jersey Radioactive Materials Management Group.

The United States Supreme Court declares the "take-title" provision in the federal siting act unconstitutional, but reaffirms all other provisions of the law.

The Board addresses the Environ-mental Commission in East Amwell Township (Hunterdon County) after officials express interest in learning more about siting the disposal facility. In the wake of the meeting, township officials decide to proceed no further.

July ‘92: The Board directs EBASCO to cease screening activities under its original site selection methodology pending development of a voluntary siting program.

September ‘92: The Advisory Committee begins to develop a blueprint for implementing a voluntary approach to siting. working with the Office of Dispute Settlement, a unit of the Department of the Public Advocate.

October ‘92: The Board holds the first of twelve meetings with interest groups across the state, consulting with them on how the Board might structure a voluntary approach to siting the disposal facility. These meetings were facilitated by the Office of Dispute Settlement and the New Jersey League of Women Voters.

November ‘92: The Northeast Compact executes an agreement with the Southeast Compact for continued access to the disposal facility in Barnwell County, South Carolina through June 1994.

The Star-Ledger runs a series of front-page articles on low-level radioactive waste and its disposal.

December ‘92: The Board adopts a policy statement on "seeking a volunteer community to host a disposal facility as an alternate Site Identification Methodology."

March ‘93: Northeast Compact partner Connecticut makes a surprise offer of $100 million to the Texas legislature to become part of a compact being contemplated by Texas. The offer is rejected.

April ‘93: The Board approves a fee assessment of generators of $2.5 million.

May ‘93: Siting Board Executive Director informs the Northeast Compact of New Jersey’s displeasure with Connecticut’s unilateral action to attempt to join a compact with Texas.

June ‘93: The first working draft of the voluntary siting plan prepared by the Advisory Committee is presented to the Board for input.

October ‘93: The Board and Advisory Committee hold a workshop with experts in the siting of waste facilities to finalize the guiding principles of the voluntary siting approach.

January ‘94: The Board approves a resolution adopting a voluntary approach to siting the disposal facility and seeking public input into this approach prior to final adoption in September 94.

June ‘94: A five-month comment period on the proposed voluntary siting plan begins.

Sam Penza, Executive Director of the Board since 1989, retires.

July ‘94: The disposal facility in Barnwell, South Carolina, to which New Jersey generators had been sending their waste, closes to all states outside the Southeast Compact. On-site interim storage begins in New Jersey.

September ‘94: John R. Weingart is named the new Executive Director of the Board.

November ‘94: The Environmental Commission in Mansfield (Warren County) votes to invite Board representatives to attend a meeting. Before the invitation is sent, however, local opposition causes the invitation to be rescinded.

February ‘95: The Board adopts the Voluntary Siting Plan.

March ‘95: Board staff gives a presentation to a standing-room only crowd in a too-small room in Roosevelt (Monmouth County).

As the Board is speaking with Roosevelt officials, someone in Montgomery Township (Somerset County) misinterprets a talk by the Siting Board Executive Director before the local Rotary Club as an indication that there might be local interest in exploring the voluntary process. He anonymously prints up flyers, which generate several local news stories.

April ‘95: The Environmental Commission of Roosevelt, which had extended the invitation to the Board, votes 6-0 in support of a study, but the Town Council votes 4-2 to cease any consideration of hosting the disposal facility.

Copies of a new Board publication describing the Voluntary Siting Process is sent to legislators, mayors, health officers, municipal clerks, and environmental commissions of every town, borough, and city in the state.

May ‘95: The Mayor of Elsinboro publicly suggests that the township consider volunteering. After meeting with the township engineer and examining area maps, Board staff conclude that no potentially suitable sites appeared to be available within the town’s borders.

June ‘95: The Board adopts the Voluntary Site Evaluation Methodology.

In response to the dissemination of the voluntary plan, the Township Committee of Alloway (Salem County) meets with Board staff.

July ‘95: The disposal facility in Barnwell reopens to all states except North Carolina, as South Carolina withdraws from the Southeast Compact, angered at the slow pace of development of a new disposal facility in North Carolina.

Officials in Alloway (Salem County) and a landowner with property straddling Hamburg and Hardyston (Sussex County) express interest in learning more about the voluntary process.

August ‘95: The Sussex County chapter of the League of Women Voters schedules an Open House in Hamburg. Two days before the event, the Hamburg Council votes to prohibit the use of any municipal building for such an event, causing the League to postpone. The neighboring community of Hardyston votes to oppose the siting of a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility on or near its borders. Sussex freeholders adopt a resolution opposing locating a disposal facility anywhere in Sussex County. No public meetings are held with the Board.

Board staff makes a presentation before the Ruritan Club in Alloway.

September ‘95: The Alloway Township Committee, responding to public disapproval voiced in petitions and meetings, votes to discontinue its investigation of the possibility of siting a disposal facility in the township.

November ‘95: A new question-and-answer booklet is mailed to all mayors, environmental commission, planning boards and others across the state on the Board’s mailing list. This becomes the best and most widely disseminated introduction to the Voluntary Siting Process.

December ‘95: During public meetings, Planning Board officials in Springfield (Burlington County) discuss looking into the issues.

January ‘96: Public hearings are held in Trenton, Jersey City, and Glassboro on the 1996 Disposal Plan Update.

February ‘96: Ten community leaders from Springfield visit Barnwell on an information- gathering mission before their town decides whether or not to explore the possibilities of volunteering to host New Jersey’s disposal facility.

March ‘96: A workshop on low-level radioactive waste, funded by the Siting Board, is co-sponsored by The League of Women Voters of New Jersey Education Fund, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, and Rutgers University. It attracts more than 200 participants.

Board staff begin developing a Request for Proposal for a private company to design, build, and operate the disposal facility.

The Board adopts the Preliminary Site Investigation Program for Evaluating a Potential Site for New Jersey’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility.

The Town Council in Pennsville (Salem County) passes a resolution requesting the Siting Board to advise them if they have any suitable land. The Board replies that they do not. The township suggests it may offer additional information for the Board’s consideration.

Lower Township (Cape May County) forms a committee to look into the siting process. After a meeting at which the Board’s Executive Director speaks, the municipal council votes to take no further action at this time.

April ‘96: The Springfield Township Planning Board votes to take no further action regarding a study to learn about the issues, as over 200 residents attend a meeting in which this issue is not even on the agenda.

The Board approves the Update to the New Jersey Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Plan.

May ‘96: Representatives of five more towns, including Commercial Township (Cumberland County), contact the Siting Board. In some cases, Board staff inform the caller that his/her town could not be the site for the disposal facility because it is in the Pinelands, or in a 100-year flood plain, or not enough acreage is available. One of them-Fairfield (Cumberland County)-begins an active public exploration of learning about the issues with an eye towards volunteering.

July ‘96: The Board issues a Request for Information to solicit guidance that would enable staff to develop the RFP for a company to design, license, operate, and close a disposal facility.

Board staff brings a model of the proposed disposal facility and its exhibit to Fairfield (Cumberland County) at the request of the township Environmental Commission. Officials in Fairfield form a group of residents to study the issues.

August ‘96: The Fairfield Town Committee unexpectedly votes to end looking into the process.

September ‘96: The Board adopts the Site Characterization Program for Evaluating a Potential Site for New Jersey’s Low-Level Radio- active Waste Disposal Facility.

October ‘96: The Board sends a letter to the Northeast Compact Commission asking that $500,000 in federal rebate money be made available as an upfront incentive to a potential host community. This request is made to the Commission because the New Jersey Siting Act does not appear to permit the Board itself to make grants to interested communities.

November ‘96: The Environmental Commission in Bethlehem Township (Hunterdon County) contacts the Board.

December ‘96: A workshop designed for local officials, entitled "Weighing More Facts: Municipal Issues in Low-Level Waste Management," co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters Education Fund, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, and Rutgers University, is held at Rowan University in Glassboro. The focus of the conference is how to balance community concerns and options in discussing tough public land-use issues, and how to initiate community dialogue.

January ‘97: Open Houses are held in Bethlehem Township. A subsequent review of potential sites by staff and a state geologist determines that no site in the township has the requisite characteristics that would make it viable for the disposal facility. The Board sends a letter to Bethlehem, formally ending the discussion. Subsequently, the Bethlehem Town Council also ceases the exploratory process.

March ‘97: Officials in Delaware Township (Hunterdon County) publicly discuss learning about the issues to possibly consider volunteering.

April ‘97: The Delaware Township Committee votes to send the Board a letter expressing "no further interest" in pursuing the idea.

May ‘97: South Harrison Township (Gloucester County) forms a study group to begin looking into the issues. The township committee sends a letter to all residents informing them of its action. An Open House is held. Four days later, the Township Committee votes to end the process.

The Northeast Compact approves the proposal to make $500,000 available to a municipality identified by the Siting Board.

September ‘97: Revisions to the Preliminary Site Investigation Program, which reflect a revised management schedule to better meet the needs of a potential host community, are adopted by the Board.

October ‘97: Chem-Nuclear, which operates the disposal facility in Barnwell, acknowledges a shortfall in the anticipated volume of low-level radioactive waste it will receive. Since payments it owes to the state of South Carolina are fixed by law, this means Chem-Nuclear will have to raise almost $7 million to meet its obligations to the state. This impels a plan to sell most of the remaining space at the Barnwell facility now for future disposal for $235 a cubic foot plus usage costs.

December ‘97: Following preliminary discussions with the Carneys Point Economic Development Commission, the Siting Board votes to enter into a contract with Carneys Point (Salem County) for an amount not to exceed $750,000 for "all reasonable expenses" that would be incurred as the township considers all aspects of volunteering to host the disposal facility. The EDC mails a newsletter to every town resident and holds a public meeting.

Two weeks later, the Township Committee votes to cease the siting process.

February ‘98: The Siting Board votes to suspend the siting process, citing the continued though unpredictable availability of out-of-state disposal combined with a dramatic reduction in the volume of waste generated.

The Board de-authorizes its contract with the Carneys Point EDC and reimburses Carneys Point for the $47,000 it incurred in expenses.

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Last updated January 1999