UPDATE: This week, the New Jersey Senate's Energy and Environment Committee heard testimony on legislation that would close the loopholes which allow individuals with organized crime connections to operate in the state's waste industry. As recommended by the State Commission of Investigation (SCI), the legislation would require background checks for additional job categories.
"This bill is long overdue and is needed even more with the SCI revelations," said Acting SCI Executive Director Lee Seglem, as reported by the Courier-Post. "We are glad the Legislature is stepping in again to change that."
Committee chairman Senator Bob Smith has said he will now post the bill for a vote.
- New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak has re-introduced a bill to require stronger background check laws for the state's waste industry in light of recent illegal dumping incidents that were tied to mob operations, according to officials. Sales people, consultants, brokers, and employees in the recycling field are currently exempt.
- The bill would also make the Attorney General's Office the sole authority for screening applicants, a function which it now shares with the the state's Department of Environmental Protection. The state would also have to check if applicants had been barred from operating in other states.
- A version of this bill was introduced in the state Assembly in January and must be discussed at a hearing of the Environment and Solid Waste Committee before moving forward.
This renewed attention comes after the the State Commission of Investigation held a hearing earlier this summer on recent illegal practices in the waste industry. One company brought 7,500 tons of contaminated demolition waste from the Bronx to use as fill in an area affected by Superstorm Sandy. In another case, a recycling facility was receiving toxic material without proper permits and polluted a nearby creek. Both cases could end up costing New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars.
Though the state cracked down on mob-related waste businesses in the 1980s, these loopholes have allowed them to keep operating. Barring convicted felons from having a stake in any business and establishing a better system for sharing information with states in the region — especially New York due to its proximity and high volume of material — is a logical next step.
Senator Lesniak takes credit for passing the original legislation and said it's time to finish the job. His latest bill has been held up over accusations that it would be burdensome for businesses, but he disagrees with that view.
"I don't think you can hide under the mantle of over-regulation of business when you have both the mob interests and environmental harm being done," Lesniak told NJ.com.