Gov. Phil Murphy speaks in Newark in late March during a briefing on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. — Photo by Edwin Torres/Governor’s Office
By Joshua Burd
Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday extended a host of deadlines required under the state’s environmental laws, including those related to certain permit decisions for development projects.
In his latest executive order tied to the coronavirus pandemic, Murphy effectively pushed back the statutory timeframes for certain approvals, notifications and other actions for permits reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The order extends those timeframes for the length of New Jersey’s public health emergency, he said, citing the need to ensure opportunities for public engagement while enabling the DEP to conduct thorough reviews.
Under normal circumstances, the agency must act on an application for a construction permit within 90 days or the application is deemed approved. Such a permit may include approvals related to statutes aimed at protecting and governing development in waterfront or coastal areas, wetlands or flood hazard areas.
Saturday’s executive order, which notes that New Jersey’s state of emergency for COVID-19 began on March 9, also pauses or delays timeframes related to public notice and review on permits and other approvals.
“New Jersey’s public health emergency impacts the ability of public and private sectors to meet deadlines for the issuance or denial of permits, as well as certain environmental reporting,” Murphy said. “Today’s order enables the DEP to consistently conduct full and complete environmental reviews while maintaining its core mission of protecting the public health, safety and the environment while ensuring a robust public participation process.”
Executive Order No. 136 also extends deadlines for a host of other matters, including registrations for soil and fill recycling services, reporting for municipalities to submit their yearly recycling tonnage and collections of electronic devices.
The order took effect immediately.
“As we continue to make progress in our fight against COVID-19, the DEP will continue to balance the needs and logistical limitations of business, government and community stakeholders,” said Catherine R. McCabe, the DEP’s commissioner. “This order gives DEP greater discretion to extend certain decision deadlines if necessary to achieve that balance while providing meaningful opportunities for public participation. Make no mistake, DEP remains hard at work during the public health emergency and will keep moving permit applications in a timely manner just as we will keep protecting our environment and public health.”