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Environmental Groups Push Murphy on Climate Regulations

Flooding in Ocean City.
File Photo
Flooding in Ocean City.

By Vince Conti

The Sierra Club of New Jersey and other environmental organizations are claiming that Gov. Phil Murphy has inordinately delayed action on his promises to protect against flooding.

The groups’ press release follows a letter to Murphy from 31 environmental organizations warning of an “ever-decreasing window for these rules to be proposed and adopted during your tenure.”

The organizations are expressing frustration with the pace of regulatory change at the state Department of Environmental Protection, given what they argue was Murphy’s “groundbreaking” Executive Order 100 issued in 2020. That order directed the DEP to adopt Protecting Against Climate Threats regulations, known as NJPACT.

In his executive order, Murphy said the DEP should adopt NJPACT regulations within two years of the date of the order. That included a requirement that the DEP “integrate climate change considerations, such as sea level rise, into its regulatory and permitting programs.”

The state set a broad goal to “make natural and build environments more resilient to the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid.” The DEP has repeatedly asserted that the rule changes can go forward based on existing law and authority, requiring no new legislation, making the proposed changes largely agency-driven.

The letter from the environmental groups chides Murphy and the DEP for not moving faster. It argues that the state made progress with the Inland Flood Protection Rules in July 2023, but progress since then has stalled with respect to “the larger set of updates under NJPACT Resilient Environmental and Landscape (NJPACT REAL) rules.” It goes on to say that “N.J. is in desperate need of bold action.”

In an address at Rutgers University last February, Murphy outlined his six pillars “that will serve as the foundation for a cleaner, greener and more resilient New Jersey.” One of those pillars was the “anticipated proposal of the NJPACT REAL rules in summer 2023, which will provide enhanced flood protection for homeowners, businesses and infrastructure against increased flooding in riverine and coastal areas.”

Even at the time of Murphy’s Rutgers speech, environmental groups argued he was not moving fast enough. Yet many in coastal communities argued that the governor needed to slow down. They worried about the impact of the proposed regulations on shore communities’ development.

The new regulations are expected to include more stringent requirements for coastal development, added stormwater management regulations and new protections for wetlands. Advocates argue that if the rules are not published soon, the Murphy administration may not have enough time left to implement them in the remaining 18 months of his final term.

The letter ends with a plea to Murphy to “strengthen your environmental legacy by laying a solid foundation for your successor, and secure New Jersey for current and future generations to come.”

Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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