At a well-attended New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Breakfast in late May, Deputy Commissioner Irene Kropp described the evolving organizational responsibilities of three key managers at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Chief of Staff Magdalena Padilla, Chief Counselor Ray Cantor and Irene Kropp. These responsibilities are evolving as Commissioner Bob Martin develops the Department’s Vision Statement, which should be posted on the NJDEP website soon. Shortly thereafter, the Department will publish its “Transformation Agenda,” which will be designed to implement the Vision Statement and presumably change the way NJDEP does business.
In the meantime, the Department is actively acknowledging that it should be a responsive and transparent agency. There are three key managers who will try to accomplish this goal while attending to the following responsibilities.
Magdalena Padilla – Chief of Staff Padilla handles all of the day-to-day operational issues. She is the Department’s “traffic cop.” If you have a problem with a specific issue, you may call Chief Magdalena in the Commissioner’s Office. Should your issues relate to legislation, David Glass, the Department’s Legislative Liaison and Deputy Chief of Staff, should be contacted.
Ray Cantor – Chief Counsel Cantor has been leading the Department’s Red Tape review and the related stakeholder meetings; he is developing a better way of rulemaking at the Department. As part of his mission, he will be assisted by an economist, Ben Witherell, who will be looking at the economic impact of every proposed new rule.
Irene Kropp – Deputy Commissioner Kropp is in charge of the “Transformation” of the Department, including Transformation of NJDEP enforcement. We really will not know what that means until the Department publishes the Transformation Agenda, which will outline the implementation steps for this “Transformation.” The targeted date for this publication is this July. Some of Ms. Kropp’s other responsibilities include:
- Information Technology (IT) – The Department will enhance its IT focus, including mandating e-permitting, electronic submittals, etc., with a goal of achieving these objectives within two years. Irene’s five years heading
the Department’s IT function are a plus in regard to this assignment and its implementation. Success depends on whether there is adequate funding.
- Office of Science – Develop the mission statement of the newly appointed Science Advisory Board. Look at long term, as well as short term projects.
- Environmental Justice – Revamp the program and include cumulative risk exposure.
- Alternate Dispute Resolution – Resurrect this office, which will be headed by Tina Layre. Tina’s experience in the Site Remediation Program, will be a plus. She understands business issues and is a good communicator. The Department will be working on the criteria for the types of cases it will allow in this ADR program and will require the parties to sign a contract to make the best use of the program. Presumably, this contract will include information sharing requirements, deadlines, and top management commitment and participation. NJDEP wants to improve the process and obtain cost-effective results for everyone.
- One Stop Permitting – After meetings with stakeholders, Scott Brubaker will develop a paradigm for effective use of this Office, including developing priorities for the types of projects it will work on and the role of the Office.
- Develop Performance Metrics – As touted by Irene, the new metrics should be related to actual environmental benefits, such as how many of an inspector’s facilities are in compliance and, if not, why not. Rewarding the
number of inspections performed and notices of violation issued will remain a necessity due to EPA oversight of programs and grants, but this type of “bean counting” should not be the only driver for performance evaluation.
- Training & Education = Culture – As we have heard many times recently, Department employees have been reminded that they need to develop a service mentality. Calls need to be returned and decisions need to be made. The Department will use training and education as one important tool to bring about this culture change.
Water Quality Management Plans – Deputy Commissioner Kropp offered a new concept that will be considered related to permitting and updating Water Quality Management Plans. [By April 2011, generally, counties are required to develop Water Quality Management Plans which evaluate sewer capacity and environmentally sensiteive areas to identify where development can occur and where it would be prohibited.] If someone wants to build in an identified growth area, they should not need to go through the site-specific permit process. The location of a project in the growth area should be sufficient for the Department to allow the project to proceed.
Waiver Regulations – Executive Order No. 2, requiring every department in state government to develop waiver regulations, was signed early in the Christie Administration. NJDEP plans to hold stakeholder meetings this summer to discuss the proposed waiver criteria. This fall, as a pilot, NJDEP plans to include waiver regulations in the draft Administrative Regulations for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites (ARRCS). This will be the first time the Department proposes waiver criteria, which may be a model for other NJDEP regulatory programs. Even if you are not interested in the ARRCS regulatory proposal, you may want to review and comment on the waiver criteria.
The Department recognizes that if changes are to be made, they need to be made early in the Administration. Time will tell whether the NJDEP can actually “transform” itself into a more user-friendly and service-oriented organization or whether it will simply be business as usual. We are seeing some positive signs.