As we recently reported, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced on March 8 that it had finalized a new waiver rule that will permit the department to relax environmental rules in certain limited circumstances. It took a coalition of environmental and labor groups just two weeks to file a lawsuit challenging the new rule.

The legal challenge was predictable, given the overwhelming response to NJDEP’s March 2011 proposal, which drew comments from over 500 members of the public. The announcement of the lawsuit again revealed sharp divisions about the wisdom and legality of the rule . Those challenging the rule claim that it violates separation-of-powers principles and undercuts important environmental protections, while the rule’s supporters see it as a carefully circumscribed tool for providing needed flexibility.

Paul M. Hauge is an Associate in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.