On appeal from the Final Decision and Order entered by the State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection and Energy.
Before Judges Brochin and Kestin
The opinion of the court was delivered by
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-28 of the County Environmental Health Act, N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-21 to -33, the Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection and Energy ("DEPE") issued a final order certifying the Passaic County Health Department as the local health agency to which she delegated the authority to implement and enforce various specifically enumerated environmental statutes throughout the county.*fn1 The City of Paterson, which is located in Passaic County, has appealed from that order, contending that, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-33, its Division of Health should have been certified as the agency authorized to implement and enforce the environmental statutes within the City of Paterson.
In its appeal from the Commissioner's order, the City of Paterson argues that the Commissioner's delegation of authority to the County, and her refusal to delegate it to the City, are based upon a misconstruction of N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-33 and constitute an abuse of discretion. We disagree.
The County Environmental Health Act proclaims in part the following legislative findings and statement of public policy:
The Legislature finds that environmental health programs for the control of air pollution, solid waste, hazardous waste, noise, pesticides, radiation, and water pollution and to protect workers and the public from hazardous substances and toxic catastrophes are inherently regional in nature and that the existing county health departments have experience administering environmental health programs on a regional basis and that they are among the most efficient health units in the State.
The Legislature, therefore, declares that it is the policy of this State to provide for the administration of environmental health services by county departments of health throughout the State in a manner which is consistent with certain overall performance standards to be promulgated by the Department of Environmental Protection [and Energy]. [N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-22. Emphasis added, footnote omitted.]
To implement this legislatively declared policy, the Act provides that, in every county, the "county department of health established . . . with the purpose of providing environmental health programs throughout the county," N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-23, is directed to
provide environmental health services, which meet the performance and administrative standards authorized in [N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-28] for the territorial area of the county . . . , provided, however, that such environmental health services shall be provided by any municipal or regional health agency certified by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection [and Energy] pursuant to [N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-33] within its area of jurisdiction.
[N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-24. Footnotes omitted.]
In view of the Legislature's express findings and declaration of policy, the situation contemplated by the proviso, i.e., the provision of environmental health services by a municipal or regional health agency, is clearly intended to be an exception to the general rule of provision of such services by the county.
N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-28 and -33 provide criteria for the Commissioner's decision whether to certify the City of Paterson as the local health agency to which authority will be delegated to implement and enforce environmental health laws within its ...