Understanding How You May Be Impacted by the Permit Extension Act of 2020

On July 1, 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the “Permit Extension Act of 2020” into law. The new law (Assembly Bill No. 3919) extends certain permits, approvals, and deadlines for the duration of the public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The law took effect immediately and is retroactive to March 9, 2020. 

The law defines the “COVID-19 extension period” to cover the period beginning March 9, 2020 and continuing for the duration of the public health emergency.  The statute further provides that  the tolling period “shall extend the government approval at least six months beyond the conclusion of the COVID-19 extension period.”

Approvals Extended Under the Permit Extension Act of 2020

Like its predecessors, the Permit Extension Act of 2020 covers a wide range of environmental and land use approvals. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Approvals of soil erosion and sediment control plan granted by a local soil conservation district;
  • Waterfront development permits;
  • Permits issued under the Wetlands Act of 1970;
  • Permits issued under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act;
  • Septic approvals granted pursuant to Title 26 (Health and Vital Statistics) of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated;
  • Permits granted under N.J.S.A. 27:7-1 et seq. (Acquisition, Construction and Maintenance by State);
  • Right-of way permits issued by Department of Transportation pursuant to N.J.S.A.27:1A-5;
  • Approvals granted by a sewerage authorities pursuant to the “sewerage authorities law”;
  • Approvals granted by municipal authorities pursuant to the “municipal and county utilities law”;
  • Agreements with municipalities, counties, municipal authorities, sewerage authorities, or other governmental authority for the use or reservation of sewerage capacity;
  • Approvals issued by county planning boards pursuant to chapter 27 of Title 40 of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated;
  • Preliminary and final approvals granted in connection with applications for development pursuant to the Municipal Land Use Law;
  • Permits granted under the State Uniform Construction Code Act;
  • Plan endorsements and center designations under the State Planning Act;
  • Permits or certifications issued under the Water Supply Management Act;
  • Permits authorizing the drilling of a well pursuant to N.J.S.A. 58:4A-5 et seq.;
  • Certifications or permits granted, exemptions from a sewerage connection ban granted, wastewater management plans approved, and pollution discharge elimination system permits pursuant to the Water Pollution Control Act;
  • Certifications granted under the Realty Improvement Sewerage and Facilities Act;
  • Certifications of proposed water supply and sewerage facilities granted under N.J.S.A.58:11-25.1 et seq.;
  • Certifications issued and water quality management plans approved under the Water Quality Planning Act; and
  • Approvals granted under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The Permit Extension Act does not include certain types of approvals or permits, including those issued under the Flood Hazard Control Act, Coastal Area Facility Review Act, Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. Also excluded are permits and approvals issued by the State Department of Transportation pursuant to Title 27 of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated or under the general authority conferred by State law, other than certain right-of-way permits and certain permits granted pursuant to N.J.S.A. 27:7-1 et seq. or any supplement thereto; any approval in connection with a resource recovery facility; and federal government permits and approvals and certain other approvals that are affected by federal law.

The Permit Extension Act provides that within 30 days of the Permit Extension Act’s enactment, state agencies must publish a notice of the tolling approvals in the New Jersey Register. Thereafter, any government approval subject to the automatic suspension of the running period of such approval for the COVID-19 extension period must be “registered” with the department within 30 days of the notice in the New Jersey Register. The Permit Extension Act does not provide details on the registration process; however, it does provide that the “running period of any approval not registered . . . shall not be suspended.”

MLUL Timeframes Extended

The Permit Extension Act of 2020 also impacts timeframes under the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL):

  • The 45-day period for an application for development to a municipal agency to be certified as complete under the MLUL is extended to either 120 days after March 9, 2020, or 60 days after the date the application for development is submitted to the municipal agency, whichever date is later, provided the development application was awaiting such certification as of March 9, 2020 or was submitted during the COVID-19 extension period.
  • The time period for a municipal agency to either grant or deny approval to a development application is extended by 120 days for any application awaiting certification as complete as of March 9, 2020 or pending before a municipal agency as of March 9, 2020. For applications submitted during the COVID-19 extension period, the time period within which approval must be granted or denied is extended to either 120 days after March 9, 2020, or 60 days after the application is certified as complete, whichever date is later.

For more information about the Permit Extension Act or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.

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