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Permit Extension Act Sits on Governor’s Desk

Date : Fri, 20 Jul 2012 11:39:47 -0400

For Immediate Release
July 20, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Permit Extension Act Sits on Governor’s Desk Last month 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.The bill now sits on Governor Christie’s desk.We need the Governor to veto this bill to stop developers from evading updated environmental laws, public health standards, building codes, and local zoning changes.The latest round of Permit Extension not only extends permits until 2014, but also goes after the Highlands, Pinelands, and Barnegat Bay.Portions of the Highlands and Pinelands would be designated growth areas and have their permits extended.The bill’s "Dracula Clause," would bring back bad projects where permits and approvals have already expired.This bill takes the side of developers over our communities and environment and should be vetoed.If the Governor does not veto the entire bill, he should conditionally veto portions of the bill to remove the Highlands and Pinelandsand the Dracula Clause.

"Governor Christie must not put special interests over protecting open space and the drinking water of New Jersey. Vetoing the Permit Extension Act will put citizen’s rights before builders campaign contributions.With this bill we will see increased flooding, water pollution, and the paving over of 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. It takes the side of sprawl and over development over protecting water supply and natural resources and must be veoted." If the Governor signs this bill, it will be the third extension of development permits. Permits have already been extended for six years and would now 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. The builders claim we need the Permit Extension Act due to the downturn in the economy and doing away with environmental regulations will keep the building industry afloat.However this bill lets them delay starting construction on their projects.Instead creating jobs now, they are sitting on these projects.

"This bill is the Builder Protection Act, putting builders before the environment and tax payers," said Jeff *Tittel*."With this bill we will see 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. More than 40% of the Highlands Planning Area would have permits extended.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 targeted. 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 language designating the Highlands and Pinelands as growth areas should be removed because it uses the old State Plan to determine which areas will have their permits extended.The Governor has said he does not want to use the old State Plan in new legislation as New Jersey begins using his administration’s State Strategic Plan.The legislation excludes Planning Area 4b and 5 from the Act.For these reason he should conditionally veto the bill to remove that language. 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.

"Governor Christie must veto this bill to protect people from flooding and toxic sites, more 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 government 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
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