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Permit Extension Act Now on Governor's Desk

Date : Fri, 29 Jun 2012 12:47:37 -0400

For Immediate Release
June 29, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Permit Extension Now on Governor's Desk Yesterday the Senate took the side of developers over the environment, our water supply, and the health of the people of New Jersey by passing another Permit Extension Act 35 to 1 with 4 absentions. Under this bill developers will be able to ignore updated environmental laws, public health standards, building codes, and local zoning changes. The Permit Extension Act will extend developers permits until 2014, allowing builders to evade updated environmental protections.This legislation is even worse than before because it includes the Highlands and Pinelands and the "Dracula Clause," which would bring back bad projects where permits and approvals 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.The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk.

"The Legislature took the side of special interests over protecting open space and the drinking water of New Jersey. This is the power of builder's campaign money pushing aside the rights of citizens and communities.This is one of the worst bills ever passed by the Legislature and they keep making it worse with extension after extension. Now they want to pave over even more environmentally sensitive areas," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.* "This bill targets environmentally sensitive areas throughout New Jersey especially the Highlands, Pinelands, and Barnegat Bay. This legislation takes the side of developers interests over public interest. It takes the side of sprawl and over development over protecting water supply and natural resources." 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.

"Instead of calling it the Permit Extension Act they should call it the Builder Protection Act because it is a giveaway to the builders at the expense of the environment and tax payers. This is one of those special interest bills they try to pass quietly in the middle of the budget season, but it will have dire consequences for the state of New Jersey," said Jeff *Tittel*."This is clearly a special interest bill to take care of developers at the expense of the environment and people of New Jersey. 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.

"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 Tittel.* Under the changes to the bill the Permit Extension Act will still target more than 40% of the Highlands Planning Area.Many of these areas are environmentally sensitive and critical to water supply. Areas around the Spruce Run, Round Valley, Boonton, and Wanaque reservoirs will be targetted. This bill also targets important endangered species habitat in Sussex and Warren Counties as well as trout streams and scenic mountains.

"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 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.

"They need to call it the Permitting Extension Act because they keep giving permits to developers no matter what. This bill 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
Received on 2012-06-29 09:47:37

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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