Volume 13 Issue 9 - Tuesday, June 14, 2022

NJDEP Proposes Rules for New Environmental Justice Law, NJDEP Announces Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules, Jamie Fox Memorial Fund Update & New Legislator Profile: Assemblywoman Claire Swift (R-2)

NJDEP Proposes Rules for New Environmental Justice Law

On Monday, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) proposed new environmental justice rule that is regarded as one of the toughest in the nation – carving out half of the state’s population as living in “overburdened communities” and limiting the types of businesses that can be built there.

Under the rule, DEP could deny any proposal for a new or expanded power plant, recycling facility, incinerator, sludge operation, landfill, sewage treatment plant, recycling facility, scrapyard or other major sources of potential pollution within an overburdened block group. State officials hope to adopt the rule by the end of the year.

“This is a big deal because New Jersey is the first state in the entire country to wrestle meaningfully with addressing the accumulated impacts of pollution that are disproportionately experienced by low income, black, brown and indigenous communities,” said DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette.

“It’s going to feel too big, too fast, too soon for some, and it’s going to feel too slow, too late for other, added LaTourette.

NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor expressed concerns about the long-term impact this rule will have on energy supply and distribution in the state.

“The business community wants to be good neighbors and improve the communities where they are located. But a rule that creates uncertainty and bans new facilities is not in the best long-term interest of the state,” said Cantor.

“While we understand that more needs to be done to address environmental conditions in many of our state’s disadvantaged communities, this rule covers too much of the state and sets up standards that will be extremely challenging, if not impossible, to meet.” 

For more information about the new Environmental Justice laws and to see which communities will be affected, visit the NJDEP’s online Environmental Justice Mapping, Assessment and Protection Tool.

NJDEP Announces Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules 

At a stakeholder meeting on May 25th, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced emergency rulemaking for the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules.

The emergency rules will raise the requirement for design flood elevation in a fluvial flood hazard area. It raises the Design Flood Elevation by two (2) feet, (will expand the flood plain and require that first floors of all buildings in the flood plain be DEP base flood elevation plus 2’ and from the FEMA 100-year elevation plus 3 feet) and will incorporate the new precipitation projections (year 2100) into stormwater best management practices designs, which will impact the sizing of stormwater management systems.

Any construction must meet the FEMA NFIP standards and relevant sections of the Uniform Construction Code. Also, existing verifications, without a related permit, may no longer be valid. This increase in elevations may also impact the feasibility of a project, because of access issues. All floodways are expected to remain the same.

NJDEP intends to adopt the emergency rules in mid-June and recommends that any applications that may be impacted be submitted to NJDEP by Friday, June 10, 2022 in order to remain subject to the existing rules. That application must be deemed complete upon submission.  If a project is now not within the regulated flood plain but is within the regulated flood plain under the emergency rules, it must be in construction to be exempt from the emergency rules. 

On June 3, just days after the emergency rule was announced, a group of 19 business and industry organizations signed a letter to Governor Murphy asking him to delay” the rule’s advancement, and to reject the agency’s assertion that the public faces “imminent peril.”

“There is no imminent peril and, thus, no reason to deviate from the normal rulemaking process,” the letter said.

“If adopted, this rule would adversely impact countless sorely needed development and infrastructure projects that are being planned or have already been designed and engineered at great cost to both the private and public sectors.”

The signatories, who also include representatives of counties, utilities, builders and organized labor, acknowledged that flood rules may need to be updated but argued that any change should be made through the regular rulemaking process which allows a full opportunity for public comment.

It estimated that adding two feet to the flood plain could reduce the state’s buildable area by 5% to 10%, or 200,000 acres – 400,000 acres.

Click here to read more about the business community’s opposition to the NJDEP’s emergency rulemaking process. 

The Jamie Fox Memorial Fund: Spring 2022 Update

This Spring, The Jamie Fox Memorial Fund celebrated the induction of six Fox Scholars.

The programs, started in 2018 to honor our friend Jamie Fox, are designed to introduce college students to the inside workings of public service, something Jamie was committed to his entire life.

The mentorship program matches students with politically savvy mentors and the internship program helps students secure unpaid internships in politics, government, or issues advocacy. Students receive a stipend for their participation.

New Legislator Profile: Assemblywoman Claire Swift (R-2)

Assemblywoman Swift was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in November 2021. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and law degree from Widener University Law School. She clerked for an assignment judge for Superior Court in Atlantic and Cape May counties, served as a deputy attorney general and is the founding member of her law firm.

Assemblywoman Swift serves on the Assembly Human Services Committee, the Assembly Labor Committee and the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

Click here to learn more about the Jamie Fox Memorial Program Update