Wednesday, December 29, 2021
His Administration is showing all signs of entering the next term with an aggressive environmental agenda, following the re-election of New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy. Governor Murphy has been a leader in the nation’s environmental enforcement efforts over the past four years. Recent developments in the administration suggest that these next four-years will continue this trend at a faster pace, particularly in areas such as environmental justice, climate change, enforcement policy, and climate change.
Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 23 in his first term. This directed the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, NJDEP, to develop guidelines for all state departments to incorporate EJ considerations into their actions.
Governor Murphy signed N.J.S.A.’s landmark Environmental Justice Law on 18 September 2020. 13:1D-157 (EJ Law). The law requires NJDEP’s evaluation of the environmental and public health impacts on specific facilities located in overburdened areas when reviewing permit applications. It also authorizes NJDEP, based upon its assessment, to deny or condition permits. NJDEP is currently developing regulations to implement EJ Law. They expect to present regulations in the next months for formal public comments. Rules will be adopted in the second half 2022.
In the interim Shawn LaTourette, NJDEP Commissioner announced the issuance Administrative Order No. The Administrative Order No. 2021-25 was issued immediately. NJDEP can apply key components of EJ Law without formal regulations through the Administrative Order. This includes extending public comment periods and requiring specific facilities to hold a mandatory public hearing to maximize participation. The Administrative Order applies to all permits for facilities in overburdened areas, as defined by EJ law.
NJDEP also announced it would be launching new EJ initiatives in order to increase community engagement in agency decisions that have an impact on overburdened communities, keeping true to Governor Murphy’s promise under Executive Order 23. This includes a year-long series community participation sessions, which were hosted by Senator Troy Singleton and the Commissioner. NJDEP will expand its Office of Environmental Justice. This office is responsible for leading efforts by the state to incorporate EJ considerations in actions. NJDEP will be expanding its Office of Environmental Justices website. This site currently hosts NJDEPs resources and policies as well as initiatives related to EJ.
Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 274, which establishes an interim target for greenhouse gas emissions of 50% below 2006 levels, by 2030. This Order is an important step toward the Governor’s ultimate goal of achieving a 80% reduction in greenhouse gases emissions by 2050 as outlined in his 2019 New Jersey Energy Master Plan.
The Murphy Administration will continue to pursue their initiatives through the New Jersey Protecting Against Climate Threats Program (PACT). This will allow them to move quickly. The NJDEP launched this regulatory program to strengthen air pollution rules, and reduce future greenhouse gases in January 2020. NJDEP hosted a series stakeholder sessions last year to develop regulations for the program, which is known as Climate Pollutant Reduction rules. NJDEP plans to adopt CPR regulations in 2022. These regulations will regulate and seek to reduce carbon dioxide and other short-lived climate pollutants. NJDEP is also working with the PACT program to adopt regulations that incorporate climate change considerations such as sea level rising into its land resource protection rules before the end of 2018.
NJDEP will also appoint its first Chief Compliance Officer. The Office of the Commissioner has created a new Office of Enforcement Policy, which will oversee all NJDEP enforcement policy. The Compliance and Enforcement Section has always enforced its policies according to the media involved (i.e. air, solid waste, water, and land use). The new office will allow the different enforcement programs to operate under a single command. As NJDEP already began to issue more severe penalties and violations notices, as well as initiating more lawsuits in accordance with some of the most stringent laws, we can expect enforcement to be a top priority.
New Jersey-based facilities or operations should be aware these sweeping developments under Governor Murphys Administration, and plan to enhance environmental review, regulation, participation of the public, and enforcement during Governor Murphys next term.