||A primary goal in New Jersey is to make it a "sustainable state" where natural resources are protected and available to future generations. The public education system in New Jersey is a key area in which the State's sustainability goals can be accomplished through pollution prevention and permit coordination. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (NJ DEP's) Office of Pollution Prevention and Release Prevention is currently involved in a joint initiative with several New Jersey state agencies and non-profits, including the Department of Education, the New Jersey Commerce Commission, Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Economic Development Authority (EDA), the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS), the Sustainable Schools Network and the NJ Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (NJUSGBC) to encourage sustainable design in new and replacement construction at New Jersey public schools. Over the next ten years, it is estimated that, under the New Jersey Education Facilities Construction and Financing Act (EFCFA), approximately 8.6 billion dollars of State aid will be directed to bring new and existing schools up to minimum green design standards. Initially, the program was designed to encourage school districts to meet minimum goals of efficient lighting, heating, and ventilation systems in new and redesigned schools. This initiative has grown to include innovations in stormwater management, water conservation, waste-water treatment, indoor air quality, recycling, and a number of pollution prevention alternatives. To promote pollution prevention in green school design, the Permit Coordination Program within the Office of Pollution Prevention and Release Prevention acts as a liaison between the various state agencies and provides a service to the school districts to coordinate all NJ DEP permits required for new school construction. The permit coordination process is a total facility approach to permitting and compliance assistance that identifies all the permits required for a project early in the process, provides an avenue for consistent contact for projects that are complex in the number, variety, and timing of permits. When notified of a new school project, the Permit Coordination Program requests that the school district complete a Permit Identification Form (PIF) and submit the form with the design plans to the Permit Coordination Program for review. This form is a questionnaire, available on the NJ DEP's web site at www.state.nj.us/dep/opppc that outlines each permitting program in the Department and provides the school district an opportunity to estimate what permits may be applicable to their project. Upon receipt of the PIF, the Permit Coordination Program establishes a permitting team consisting of a representative of each applicable NJ DEP program, the school district representatives, and representatives of any other applicable state agencies. A pre-application meeting is conducted to review the school design, to determine the permits required to complete the project, to develop a critical path defining the order in which permits must be applied for and processed, a schedule to apply for and process the permit applications, and a review schedule that will follow the process to completion. This program allows the permitting team to review and rework the design to reduce any adverse environmental impact, to identify pollution prevention measures that may reduce costs and improve the efficiency of the facility, and to promote the goals of a draft school construction design requirement certification program that is under consideration in New Jersey and modeled after the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED TM ) certification program (For more information go to: www.usgbc.org). Furthermore, many new urban school sites are located on former industrial areas currently undergoing remediation. The permitting team in these cases also includes a representative from the NJ DEP's site remediation program to ensure a coordinated effort between the Brownfield's remediation and redevelopment efforts. The significant benefits of a coordinated permitting approach to new school construction includes a timely, accountable, and consistent permit application review, open communication with team members, maximized resources, improved efficiency and cost effectiveness, the avoidance of conflicting requirements in permits, a reduction in duplication of effort, continuity with interagency representatives, a schedule developed as a convenient tracking tool, early resolution of possible conflicts, and a single point of contact via the permit coordination team leader.
The Permit Coordination Program also is involved in a NJ DEP initiative to administer a program under New Jersey Executive Order that requires all projects receiving more than one million dollars in funding for new school construction to complete an environmental assessment. A more detailed environmental impact statement is required if construction costs exceed five million dollars and more than five acres are to be disturbed. This initiative allows the Department to limit the environmental impact of a new project and further identify the most efficient and environmentally beneficial permitting approach. Although existing school renovation projects covering less than 25 percent of a property or small maintenance projects including asbestos removal and heating system upgrades are exempt from Executive Order 215 requirements, the permit coordination process provides an opportunity to address pollution prevention opportunities during the pre-application meeting for these sites as well. To promote energy efficiency efforts, the Permit Coordination Program and the NJ DEP’s Office of Innovative Technology and Market Development are members of the New Jersey High Performance School Facilities (NJHPSF) Work Group. This work group also includes members from the above mentioned agencies. As a result of this coordinated effort over the last year, several initiatives have been developed to introduce pollution prevention into school designs. The NJHPSF Work Group established a voluntary pilot program to help school districts build high performance "sustainable schools" that will reduce operational costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and provide a healthier school environment. The largest impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions is energy generation and usage. A primary strategy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from schools is to implement this voluntary program that assists schools in identifying ways to use energy more efficiently. Linking energy efficiency and education together will help New Jersey reach its sustainable state goals. The Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act (EDECA) includes a provision establishing a $358 million dollar Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund, and the NJHPSF pilot program is proposing to link this fund to public school construction funding. The projected result is that cleaner energy systems will be installed with lower emissions and reduced operating costs without increasing the capital costs to the school district.
Through these efforts, the NJ DEP is working to promote green design in K-12 school facilities through a coordinated permitting program that provides an opportunity to identify pollution prevention opportunities early in the design process and to provide a safe and healthy environ-ment for the public.