Significant NJDEP Organizational Changes

January 14, 2022
Bruce S. Katcher, Esq.
MGKF Special Alert - New Jersey Forecast 2022

Several significant changes in the administration of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) promise to play out during 2022. 

New Leadership
As of mid-2021, the NJDEP has a new Commissioner, Shawn LaTourette. Commissioner La Tourette previously served as legal and regulatory policy adviser to former Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe, Chief of Staff, Deputy Commissioner, and he became acting Commissioner in January 2020 when Commissioner McCabe left the agency.  Given this background, he promises to bring much needed stability and experience with the inner workings of the agency to the Commissioner position during Governor Murphy’s second term. 

Compliance and Enforcement Reorganization
At the end of 2021, the Commissioner began to make significant changes in the NJDEP’s approach to compliance and enforcement.  These changes focus on realigning the air, water, solid waste and land resource protection (formerly land use) enforcement staffs to their respective media areas under the Assistant Commissioners for Air, Water Resources, Site Remediation/Solid Waste, and Land Resource Protection, respectively. The agency feels that the integration of planning, permitting, compliance and enforcement under their respective media areas will facilitate compliance and enforcement while promoting a unified policy vision.

In addition, a new Office of Enforcement Policy will be created to ensure consistency of enforcement among the media programs.  A new Chief Enforcement Officer will head that office and develop an agency-wide enforcement agenda aimed at achieving the NJDEP’ s major priorities, including environmental justice, air quality, resource protection, and implementation of the Dirty Dirt Law and the legislature’s past revisions to waterfront public access requirements.

New Office of Community and Economic Development
The agency is establishing a new Office of Community and Economic Development, to be headed by Elizabeth Dragon, formerly the Assistant Commissioner of Compliance and Enforcement.  The Office is intended to improve the NJDEP’s services to communities and play an important role on the Governor’s Council on the Green Economy. To this end, it will aim to direct those funds controlled by the NJDEP toward investments in communities in accordance with the agency’s overall programmatic priorities.