Public Health Emergency’s End Sees DEP Public Comment Periods Scaled Back
In another step towards the return to normalcy, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner LaTourette took action by Administrative Order 2021-12 ending expanded public comment timeframes that had been made applicable to approvals under various DEP regulatory programs. In an action tied to the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency, DEP, by Administrative Order 2020-06, had previously implemented a 30-day extension of public comment timeframes on applications for approvals under CAFRA, wetland and flood hazard, solid and hazardous waste, and water quality and supply programs, among others. The end of the Public Health Emergency, effective June 4, 2021, eliminated the need for extended public comment timeframes. AO 2021-12 became effective June 17, 2021, repealing AO 2020-06 and ending the requirement that applicants for applicable DEP approvals extend opportunity for public comment. But for DEP’s action, extended public comment timeframes would have remained in effect until January 11, 2022 under the recent legislation and Executive Order that terminated the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency.
AO 2021-12 does not address pending applications. Persons preparing to submit applications to DEP or with applications pending where required notice has not yet been completed should explore whether the end of the Public Health Emergency and DEP’s related administrative action may provide an opportunity for relief from previously extended public comment timeframes.