On January 16, 2021, Shawn LaTourette became New Jersey’s Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Two weeks into office, Acting Commissioner LaTourette attended the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey’s (CIANJ) virtual meeting to discuss his plans for the Department and provide updates on the NJDEP’s current activities. These include:
- Extending the Mandatory and Regulatory Site Remediation Timeframes – The Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) statutorily imposes a mandatory Remedial Action completion deadline of May 7, 2021. The May 7, 2021 deadline will be extended, although it is not clear at this time what that extension will be (likely to be between 365 to 450 days).
- Climate Change Regulations – The Protecting Against Climate Threats (NJ PACT) initiative remains a critical component of this Administration, where the NJDEP has undertaken comprehensive regulatory reform to address climate impacts within the State. Currently, NJDEP is drafting a rule package that seeks to reduce emissions and climate pollutants, as well as modify and update land use permitting schemes to address the rising sea-level and chronic flooding. NJDEP is likely to formally propose these rules in the April 2021 New Jersey Register. Acting Commissioner LaTourette expressed that these rules are the first steps in achieving clean energy and resilient infrastructures within New Jersey.
- Environmental Justice – Acting Commissioner LaTourette explained that NJDEP is seeking to apply a common sense approach to implementing Environmental Justice regulations, with the goal of encouraging businesses to enter into areas where they could do good for the community, provide jobs and improve the environment. During his tenure, he seeks to streamline the permitting process, make resources publically accessible and available for applicants, and create analytic data tools to establish baseline conditions in overburdened communities.
- Water Issues – Acting Commissioner LaTourette expressed that NJDEP is currently evaluating a drinking water standard (or maximum contaminant level, MCL) for 1,4-Dioxane.
- Administrative Issues:
- NJDEP Staffing – The Department will undergo organizational changes, but senior staffers will not be among those changes.
- NJDEP Departments – Acting Commissioner LaTourette seeks to add resources and expand the NJDEP’s Office of Permitting and Project Navigation to make it fully equipped to address the needs of the development community’s complex projects. He also intends to expand, update and utilize the NJDEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry.
- NJDEP Accessibility – In recognition of the pandemic and its impacts, Acting Commissioner LaTourette is inquiring into a State cell phone policy in order to make NJDEP more accessible while people continue to work from home.
- Stakeholder Sessions – NJDEP’s stakeholder sessions provide information, solicit input, pursue public comment, and look to engage with the regulated community to address technical and administrative issues. Acting Commissioner LaTourette seeks to continue, and potentially modify, these stakeholder sessions moving forward.