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Permit Extension Act Signed

Date : Fri, 21 Sep 2012 14:21:18 -0400

For Immediate Release
September 24, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Permit Extension Act Signed

Today Governor Christie took the side of developers over the environment, our water supply, and the health of the people of New Jersey. He signed the Permit Extension Act, A1338. This law will allow developers to evade 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 are now designated growth areas and permits there have been extended. The bill’s "Dracula Clause," brings back bad projects where permits and approvals have already expired. This law takes the side of developers over our communities and environment.

"The Governor is taking the side of builders and campaign contributors over the environment and planning in New Jersey. He is putting special interests before open space and drinking water. With this law 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 law 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."

This is the third extension of development permits. Permits were previously 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 law 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 law lets them delay starting construction on their projects. Instead of creating jobs now, they are sitting on these projects.

"This law is the Builder Protection Act, putting builders before the environment and tax payers," said Jeff *Tittel*. "With this law 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 allows 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 law 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 Act 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 law undermines 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 will 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 round 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.

"By signing the Permit Extension Act Governor Christie is subjecting the people of New Jersey to more flooding, sprawl, toxic sites, and water pollution," Tittel concluded. "Although the builders are using the economy as an excuse, this is really an example of special interest money influencing the government to the detriment of the public. Governor Christie is allowing the builders to wreak havoc on public health and the natural resources we depend on for our economic and physical well-being, potentially costing us far more than any recession ever could."

Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
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