Prompt Action Required in New Jersey to Obtain Permit Extensions During COVID-19 Emergency

Update: The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (the “NJDEP”) published a notice in the New Jersey Register on September 8, 2020 regarding the NJDEP approvals extended by the Permit Extension Act.  Anyone seeking to extend one of these approvals must register their approval with the NJDEP by October 8, 2020.  Please refer to the notice for the specific approvals eligible for extension.  Click here for the notice

New Jersey has enacted legislation to extend the deadlines for a wide range of environmental and construction permits and approvals as a result of COVID-19.  The Permit Extension Act of 2020 (P.L.2020, c.53) specifically suspends the running of the period of approval for permits and approvals in existence on March 9, 2020 for at least six months following the conclusion of the “COVID-19 extension period.”  The COVID-19 extension period is defined as beginning on March 9, 2020 and lasting so long as the Governor’s public health emergency declaration in response to COVID-19 remains in effect. 

The extension provided by the Act applies to a broad variety of State, county, and local approvals.  For instance, the Act applies to State government approvals, including waterfront development permits, wetlands permits, development applications granted by the Pinelands Protection Act (unless such extension would violate federal law), permits issued pursuant to the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, and any municipal, county, or regional approval or permit granted under the general authority of State law.  However, the Act does not extend the approval period for certain State approvals, such as permits for projects located within the preservation area of the Highlands Region—as defined by statutory law—or permits for projects issued pursuant to the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, unless construction has already begun on such projects.

State agencies are required by the legislation to place a notice in the New Jersey Register within 30 days of the Act’s effective date of July 1, 2020.  This notice is to identify the types of permits that can be extended pursuant to the Act.  The New Jersey Department of Transportation published the required notice on August 3rd, but no other agency has complied with the requirement yet.  (A copy of the Department of Transportation’s notice can be found here.)  Within 30 days of the publication of each notice, permits and approvals must be registered with the State in order to qualify for the Act’s extension.  According to the Act, the State will publish on its website a list of the government approvals registered pursuant to the Act within 14 days of receipt of the registration.

In addition to extending permit approval periods, the Act also extends certain deadlines for Municipal Land Use Law development applications.  For development applications awaiting either certification of completion or approval as of March 9, 2020, municipal agencies have 120 days from March 9, 2020 to make such determinations.  For any development application submitted during the COVID-19 extension period, municipal agencies have the longer of either 120 days from March 9, 2020 or 60 days from submission of the application to grant or deny it.

Developers and property owners who possess government approvals are advised to review the New Jersey Register as soon as the relevant agency publishes its notice listing the approvals eligible for the extension.  Once the notice has been published, permitees have 30 days to ensure that their eligible permits are registered with the appropriate department for purposes of receiving the extension.

For more information, please contact the author Jason Boyle at jboyle@riker.com or any attorney in our Environmental Practice Group.