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Permit Extension Act is Back and Worse than Ever

Date : Tue, 31 Jan 2012 12:30:27 -0500

/For Immediate Release /
January 30, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

*Permit Extension Act is Back and Worse than Ever* Developers will be able to ignore updated environmental laws, public health standards, building codes, and local zoning changes under *A1338* (Greenwald/DeCroce), which passed out of the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee today.This Permit Extension Act will extend developers permits until 2014, allowing builders to evade updated environmental protections.This legislation is even worse than before by including the Highlands and Pinelands.The "Dracula Clause" has been kept in the bill.This dangerous provision would bring back bad projects that have expired.This bill takes the side of developers over our communities and environment.With this bill we will see increased flooding, water pollution, and other environmental problems.The Barnegat Bay, the Highlands, and Pinelands will be the hardest hit by this legislation.

"This is the Legislature at its worst. They are taking the side of special interests over the environment, public health, and safety.This is one of the most shameful bills to ever be passed. The only purpose of this bill is to take care of developers and special interests," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. * This is the third time they are extending these development permits. They already extended them for six years and now these permits may go well beyond that.This will allow bad projects to move forward even if they should not have been built in the first place because of their negative environmental impacts. This allows projects that were permitted many years ago to avoid changes in environmental law.This bill is an attack on the environment, good planning, and home rule. It was originally passed through with builders claiming that a downturn in the economy necessitates doing away with environmental regulations to keep the building industry afloat.

"This is one of those special interest bills they try to pass quietly in the middle of the night but it will have dire consequences for the state of New Jersey," *said Jeff* *Tittel*."It would result in more flooding, more people living on toxic sites, more sprawl, and more pollution in our environment." The Act includes a "Dracula Clause" that allow projects where permits or approvals have expired within the past two years to be brought back to life, even if those projects would cause environmental harm or damage to public health. A number of projects could be revived under the Permit Extension Act.Highlands Act exemptions for the 17-unit Braemar at West Milford subdivision, the Liberty Square strip mall in Independence, the Piocosta Strip Mall in Great Meadows, the Eagle Ridge 280 townhomes in West Milford, and 209 units in Oakland proposed by Pinnacle LLC could be extended.Stream encroachment and flood hazard areas permits could be lengthened for the Lion's Gate development in Hackettstown, adding 128 units and mixed commercial in the flood plain of the Musconetcong River.

"The Dracula Clause in the Permit Extension bill will bring back projects that legislation such as the Highlands Act was passed to stop.Many of these projects were grandfathered through exemptions and now would come back to life.These projects will not only promote sprawl and overdevelopment in Highlands but will hurt water quality," *said Jeff Tittel*. The bill includes a new definition of Smart Growth will allow for bad projects in the Highlands and Pinelands.These state and federally recognized regions were excluded from the legislation in 2008.The Act could even impact the Highlands Preservation Area if it is interpreted as extending exemptions from the Highlands Act.If you are exempt from the Act the Preservation Area boundaries would not apply to your project.Projects such as the Piocosta Strip Mall in Great Meadows and Pinnacle in Oakland could again become a reality. It would undermine the state's Pollution Discharge Rules, Flood Hazard Rules, Site Remediation Rules, Category 1 Rules, and others, preventing their appropriate implementation in violation of the laws that brought these rules into existence. The act would also arbitrarily extend permits affecting federally-designated programs, such as the Wetlands Act and Clean Water Act, violating Memorandums of Agreement between the state of New Jersey and the federal government. Currently Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits are good for five years plus a five year renewal, and on some occasions can be renewed beyond this.With the Permit Extension Act, all permits would be good for at least sixteen years. The six year clock makes this bill even worse than the two previous Permit Extension Acts, which were passed despite a veto by Governor Florio and a conditional veto by Governor Whitman.While those bills caused a great deal of environmental damage and sprawl problems that the state is still feeling the effects of today, the first act only extended permits for two years and the second one for one year.This bill would be for twice the time of those two acts combined.The Permit Extension Act was written by individuals with ties to the building industry with no input from the public or environmental groups.

"The Permit Extension Act would undermine attempts to protect people from flooding and toxic sites and would add to water pollution and sprawl in New Jersey," *Tittel concluded*."Although the builders are using the economy as an excuse, this is really an example of special interest money trying to influence the legislature to the detriment of the public.If we allow the builders to wreak havoc on public health and the natural resources we depend on for our economic and physical well-being, it will cost us far more than any recession ever could."

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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