New Jersey Legislature Passes Bill to Extend Permits and Approvals Because of COVID-19 Conditions

COVID-19 Update

May 18, 2020
Bruce S. Katcher
MGKF NewsFlash

The New Jersey Legislature has passed a set of COVID-19 amendments (A3929) to the Permit Extension Act (PEA).  The PEA was first enacted in 2008 to toll the running of the expiration dates of a very wide range of local, county and state construction-related permits and approvals (including environmental permits) because of the economic downturn that began that year and its devastating impact on project development and the economy.  The latest amendments add a new tolling date because of the public health and state of emergency attributable to COVID-19.  As of this date, the bill awaits the Governor’s signature. 

A wide variety of governmental permits and approvals are covered by the PEA, including many NJDEP issued land use approvals (e.g., wetlands letters of interpretation, waterfront development and CAFRA permits, flood hazard permits where work has commenced), water supply permits and certifications, water quality management plan approvals and others.  Permits for land within certain designated “environmentally sensitive areas” are not covered nor are permits issued under federally delegated programs (e.g., NJPDES permits, most freshwater wetland permits, RCRA permits, new source review permits, etc.).  Other specialized exemptions from PEA coverage apply in the Pinelands, the Meadowlands, the Highlands and elsewhere.  Municipal land use approvals are also covered.

This legislation would extend the running of the approval period for certain State, regional, county, and municipal agency permits and approvals for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency initially declared by Governor Murphy on March 9, 2020 and still in effect. It applies to any covered permit or approval in existence during the extension period.  Such approvals cannot be extended more than six months beyond the conclusion of the COVID-19 extension period, except that approvals for construction projects suspended pursuant to either the Governor’s Executive Order No. 122 (which suspended all non-essential construction) any other government order, the maximum extension of the approval period is 12 months.  The legislation also would extend certain timeframes by which planning and zoning boards have to grant or deny any applications pursuant to the Municipal Land Use Law. 

A separate section of the legislation would suspend the registration, application, or licensing requirements or timeframes under the new law recently enacted by the Legislature to impose additional requirements on soil and fill recycling activities, but only as to those businesses that perform these services in connection with road or bridge construction activities. In other words, businesses covered by the new law that provide these services in connection with redevelopment activities must still comply with the deadlines in the soil and fill law, although all businesses subject to the law were separately granted extensions under Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 136.  Both sets of extensions will run sixty days after the COVID-19 emergency ends.   

The general intent of the extensions is to take account of the halt and associated required modifications to business activity (including social distancing, and other precautionary measures) occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe business downturn accompanying these actions.  Whether the time allotted to the extensions is sufficient to account for these effects will remain to be seen. For questions or more information, contact Bruce Katcher at 484-430-2320.