NJ Expands MLUL's Definition of "Interested Party"August 17, 2018

In the case of Cherokee LCP Land, LLC v. City of Linden Planning Board, the NJ State Supreme Court has expanded the definition of “interested party” in the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) to include the holder of a tax sale certificate. The Court considered whether the holder of a tax sale certificate has standing as an “interested party” to challenge a planning board’s approval of a land use application for a neighboring property. The Court ruled that tax lienholders can have standing to challenge a planning board’s actions, however, this is “not in and of itself determinative to standing.” A tax lienholder must also show that its right to use, acquire, or enjoy property, is or may be affected by the planning board’s action. While the ruling stops short of giving all tax lienholders automatic standing, it is significant as it still increases the potential pool of challengers to a planning board’s decision. This arguably gives those with the most speculative of future interests in neighboring properties to use the MLUL to challenge the decisions of the municipal planning board.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Susan Rubright

Category: Land Use

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Governor Murphy Signs Clean Energy LegislationMay 25, 2018

On Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy signed bills related to the environmental and energy pledges he made during his campaign. The Governor signed A-3723, a Renewable Energy Bill, which provides new renewable energy standards, implementation of energy efficiency measures along with reforms related to the State’s solar programs and reinvigorating programs related to major offshore wind development. The Governor also signed into law S-2313 establishing a Zero Emissions Certificate program in order to maintain New Jersey’s nuclear power supply. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to update New Jersey’s Master Energy Plan to provide for 100% clean energy by 2050. The Master Energy Plan is directed to be completed by June 1, 2019 and will incorporate the provisions of the new legislation.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Frances Stella

Category: Energy

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DEC Revises Regulated Medical Waste Storage and Disposal RegulationsApril 13, 2018

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) issued an enforcement discretion letter related to storage time limitation requirements for regulated medical waste containers, revising 6 NYCRR 365-1.2(b)(7) and 6 NYCRR 365-1.2(b)(8). Based upon concerns of small generators of regulated medical waste (“RMW”) such as dental offices, the DEC will revise provisions related to the removal of RMW and sharps from patient care or use areas to a room or area designated for RMW storage. The DEC will now require that RMW and sharps be removed when the container has reached the fill line indicated on the container, is otherwise filled, or the container generates odors or other evidence of putrefaction, whichever comes first. This allows small generators additional time as the regulations now provide specific hour and day requirements for the removal of these items.

Related Practices: Environmental & Land Use and Health Law

Attorney: Lindsay Cambron

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Housing Decision Likely to Have Impact On All NJ MunicipalitiesMarch 9, 2018

On Thursday, March 8, 2018 a judge in Mercer County, New Jersey ordered Princeton Township and West Windsor Township to plan for more low- and middle-income housing within their boundaries than they had argued they needed to provide for. This ruling has been long anticipated by experts and officials on all sides of the affordable housing issue. In her decision, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson favored the methodology endorsed by housing advocates when she concluded that the state should add 155,000 affordable housing units by 2025. While this number is less than housing advocates had sought, it is more than the towns wanted.

While her decision applies to only the two Mercer County towns, other municipalities have been awaiting the ruling as they struggle with how much affordable housing they must provide under the New Jersey Supreme Court’s longstanding Mount Laurel cases and where it can and should be built. Kevin Walsh, Esq., with the housing advocate group Fair Share Housing Center that has been driving the litigations, said his group has reached settlements with approximately 190 municipalities on the number of housing units and where they will be built, leaving approximately 140 more to go. This latest ruling may now encourage additional settlements.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Susan Rubright

Category: Affordable housing

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Corporate Officers Held Individually Liable for Violation of Environmental RegulationMarch 1, 2018

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that a corporate officer can be held liable for violating an environmental regulation if the regulation applies to a “person” and if he or she personally participated in the conduct. The defendant, the only member of the LLC that owned the property, failed to maintain and monitor a groundwater remediation system and violated the compliance plan associated with the property. Should this decision be adopted by other jurisdictions, it could have an effect on real estate transactions regarding contaminated property, as well as an effect on corporations and their officers. This decision, while in Texas state court, could signal an expansion of other state and Federal agencies that seek to hold corporate officers or members of an LLC personally liable for failure to comply with environmental regulations and compliance provisions.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Lindsay Cambron

Category: Site remediation

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Appellate Division Upholds the ExxonMobil Natural Resource Damage SettlementFebruary 15, 2018

The New Jersey Appellate Division rejected an appeal from Environmental Groups and a former State Legislator of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s two administrative consent orders (ACOs) with ExxonMobil resolving a lawsuit over Natural Resource Damages (NRD) assessed at its facilities in Linden and Bayonne. The settlement was controversial as the $225 million was far less than what certain experts had originally estimated the damages to be. The Appellate Division upheld the ACOs, which had been approved by the trial judge. ExxonMobil still remains responsible for all clean-up and remedial costs related to contamination at those facilities.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Frances Stella

Category: Natural resource damages

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NJDEP Announces Adoption of New Ground Water Remediation StandardsJanuary 18, 2018

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) replaced the interim specific Ground Water Quality Standards with amendments to the Ground Water Quality Standards, which were published in the New Jersey Register this week. The new amendment provides specific ground water quality standards for 23 constituents and more stringent standards for three of them. NJDEP also amended Appendix A of the Discharge of Petroleum and Other Hazardous Substances rule to add perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) as a hazardous substance. This amendment comes less than one month after the Appellate Division struck down NJDEP’s interim standards for PFNA.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Frances Stella

Category: Site remediation

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The New Jersey Appellate Division Invalidates NJDEP’s ISGWQC for PFNADecember 27, 2017

In 2014, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) determined that perfluorononanoic acid (“PFNA”) was a “toxic” substance and posted Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria (“ISGWQC”) describing PFNA as a perfluorinated compound with harmful human health effects. NJDEP did not follow the requirements for the issuance of a rule or regulation wherein the NJDEP action would be subject to public comment and posting in the New Jersey Register.  The NJDEP cited N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c), as its authority for this action, which provides that the NJDEP can establish interim specific criteria for ground water constituents, but also provides that the criteria must be replaced by specific criteria or a rule as soon as possible.  On March 14, 2017, NJDEP posted the ISGWQS on its website.  This was the first guideline or groundwater criteria related to PFNA that the NJDEP had issued.

In response to NJDEP’s attempted rule-making, the plaintiffs, Chemistry Council of New Jersey, Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC, and Arkema, Inc., challenged the NJDEP’s reliance on N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c), arguing that the NJDEP violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).  The plaintiffs also argued that the ISGWQC was not supported by credible scientific evidence, thus the ISGWQC was “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” but the Appellate Division did not make a decision on that claim.

In its decision, the Appellate Division decided that pursuant to the APA, an administrative agency must “proceed in accordance with traditional rule-making requirements for a rule proposal, including provisions of notice and an opportunity to comment.”  The Appellate Division highlighted that the ISGWQC adopted by NJDEP was identified as an “interim criteria” and was posted on the NJDEP’s website on March 14, 2014, yet the measures remain in effect today.  Thus, the question for the Court was whether this is a valid exercise of authority or agency action in violation of the APA.  The Appellate Division, citing Metromedia, Inc. v. Div. of Taxation, found that the ISGWQC has all of the “earmarks of rule-making” as  it is a new standard for water quality, intended to apply universally, uniformly, and prospectively to the regulated community.  The Court considered that this was the first time NJDEP singled out PFNA as a constituent of ground water requiring attention and that the ISGWQC was in form and effect an administrative regulatory policy.  N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c)(2)(ii) limits the NJDEP’s authority and requires that any “specific criteria” shall be replaced as soon as reasonably possible by a rule.  The Court found that the interim criteria have become a de facto permanent regulatory scheme without complying with the APA, thus they are invalid.

The Appellate Division has provided the NJDEP with 30 days to seek Supreme Court review of its decision or to begin complying with the APA.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Frances Stella

Category: Site remediation

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Happy Thanksgiving!November 20, 2017




Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

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New Jersey Approves Constitutional Amendment to Earmark Monies for Environmental Clean-UpNovember 8, 2017

Nearly 70 percent of New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure on Tuesday that will ensure that monies paid by polluters will be used to actually clean-up contamination and that future governors will not be able to redirect the funds. This issue was on the ballot as the result of New Jersey’s settlement with ExxonMobil.  Governor Christie settled with ExxonMobil for more than $225 million but a cap of funds for natural resource damages meant that the majority of the damages collected would not be used for the restoration and remediation of contaminated land.  The outcome of the ballot question and the resulting constitutional amendment will cause controversy in determining if and how much money will be allocated to a particular site, if any,  for remediation and restoration but the money will have to be used for environmental restoration and not directed to the general funds.

Related Practice: Environmental & Land Use

Attorney: Lindsay Cambron

Category: Natural resource damages

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