Real Property & Environmental Law Alert Blog

Permit Extension Act of 2020 Alters Timing for Applications for Development, and Extends Certain Existing Approvals During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Permit Extension Act of 2020 Alters Timing for Applications for Development, and Extends Certain Existing Approvals During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On July 1, 2020, Governor Murphy signed the Permit Extension Act of 2020, enacted as P.L. 2020, c. 53, a stand-alone piece of legislation modifying timelines for review of applications for development before the land use boards of the State of New Jersey and tolling existing development approvals that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. This legislation ends a saga that saw the proposal of an amendment to the Permit Extension Act of 2008, which was enacted following the Great Recession; a conditional veto of that legislation; and the concurrence of both houses of the New Jersey legislature with the language of the conditional veto message. This new law will provide significant help to developers throughout New Jersey who were forced, whether by governmental order or economic infeasibility, to put projects on hold during the course of the present public health emergency. However, there are potential pitfalls of which developers should be aware, as set forth below, including a requirement that all state-level permits that developers wish to have extended be registered. The Permit Extension Act of 2020 provides as follows: Scope: Much like the original Permit Extension Act, this law serves to extend a wide...

Issues for NJ and NY Retailers and Food and Beverage Establishments to Consider Upon Reopening for Outdoor Sales and Service

Issues for NJ and NY Retailers and Food and Beverage Establishments to Consider Upon Reopening for Outdoor Sales and Service

On June 3, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 150 (the “Order”), which permitted, effective June 15, 2020, restaurants and other food and beverage establishments to offer on-site outdoor service. The Order also allowed municipalities to make outdoor shared spaces, such as sidewalks and streets, available to these establishments. Previously, these establishments had been limited to offering take-out services as a result of executive orders issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency. Simultaneous with the issuance of the Order, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (NJABC) issued a special ruling to create a COVID-19 Expansion of Premises Permit (the “Special Ruling”). We discussed the special ruling here. Similarly, the State of New York – on a region-by-region basis – is entering Phase 2 of its reopening plan in response to the COVID-19 health emergency, and the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) issued guidance to permit liquor licensees with on-premises service to resume outdoor, on-premises service of alcoholic beverages and food. We discussed the guidance here. In sum, both states have taken significant steps to provide relief to business establishments that have been hurt by the COVID-19 health emergency. These measures allow...

New York State Liquor Authority Issues Guidance on Outdoor Expansion of Licensed Premises for Phase 2 Reopening

New York State Liquor Authority Issues Guidance on Outdoor Expansion of Licensed Premises for Phase 2 Reopening

On June 4, 2020, the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) issued guidance to licensees in regions of the state of New York that have entered Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan in response to the COVID-19 health emergency (“SLA Guidance”). The SLA Guidance applies to licensees that possess on-premises service privileges under New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (“ABC Law”), and it permits these licensees to resume outdoor, on-premises service of alcoholic beverages and food. The SLA Guidance, summarized below, shall remain in effect until July 6, 2020 and may be extended or reduced depending on the circumstances. It specifically provides guidance on how outdoor consumption shall be implemented and how licensees may expand the licensed premises into outdoor spaces, and it also includes a question and answer (Q&A) section that provides guidance to municipalities seeking to extend licensed premises. Outdoor Consumption The consumption of food and alcoholic beverages must occur in outdoor, open-air areas without fixed roofs, and patrons are required to be seated at tables, bars, counters, or similar contrivances. The Q&A section provides that a fixed roof is any overhead structure covering an outdoor seating area that would not reasonably be viewed as temporary. Awnings...

NJABC Issues Special Ruling Creating COVID-19 Expansion Permit and Provides Guidance on To-Go Cocktails

NJABC Issues Special Ruling Creating COVID-19 Expansion Permit and Provides Guidance on To-Go Cocktails

Earlier this month, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“Division”) issued a special ruling to create temporary COVID-19 permits to expand licensed premises and an advisory notice regarding cocktails-to-go. These are summarized briefly below. Special Ruling Establishing Temporary COVID-19 Permit to Expand Licensed Premises This special ruling issued on June 3, 2020 establishes a COVID-19 Expansion of Premises Permit (“COVID-19 Expansion Permit”) to coincide with Executive Order No. 150, which allows licensees or permittees with on-premises retail consumption privileges to reopen and serve patrons in outdoor areas. The COVID-19 Expansion Permit allows the licensees and permittees to expand their licensed premises into outdoor areas, either contiguous or non-contiguous to their permanently licensed premises. All licensees and permittees with on-premises retail consumption privileges may apply for this permit, but no permit issued would be effective before June 15, 2020. The special ruling sets forth certain criteria that must be met for issuance of the COVID-19 Expansion Permit. In all cases, the licensee is required to demonstrate that it has a possessory interest and control over the expansion areas, and that it will exercise only the same privileges afforded to it on its existing licensed premises. For example, licensees that...

NJ Governor Supports Additional NJDEP Permitting Requirements to Address Environmental Justice Concerns

NJ Governor Supports Additional NJDEP Permitting Requirements to Address Environmental Justice Concerns

On June 19, 2020, Governor Murphy announced his support for proposed legislation that would require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and permit applicants, to take additional steps prior to permits being issued for new or expanded facilities under a wide variety of state environmental statutes. The proposed legislation, which aims to protect those communities that historically have been most impacted by pollution from industrial and related activities, would require the NJDEP to publish and maintain a list of those communities determined to be “overburdened.” In the proposed legislation, “overburdened community” is defined as: “any census block group, as determined in accordance with the most recent United States Census, in which at least one half of the households qualify as low income households, and either: (1) at least 40 percent of the residents of the census block group identify as Black, African American, Hispanic or Latino, or as members of a State-recognized tribal community; or (2) at least 40 percent of the households in the census block group have limited English proficiency.” Prior to approval of covered permit applications, an applicant would be required to assess and prepare an environmental impact statement to outline both the existing environmental...

New Jersey Publishes Formal Stringent Drinking Water Standards for PFOA and PFOS

New Jersey Publishes Formal Stringent Drinking Water Standards for PFOA and PFOS

On June 1, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officially published health-based drinking water standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). These chemicals have received serious attention from the environmental community in the last several years due to increasing science that has confirmed the harmful impact of PFOA/PFOS on human health and the environment. These new more stringent rules, published in the New Jersey Register, set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) at: 14 parts per trillion for PFOA and 13 parts per trillion for PFOS. The DEP also added PFOA and PFOS to the state’s list of hazardous substances. Site remediation activities and regulated discharges to groundwater of PFOA and PFOS will now have to comply with these new standards. These new formal standards establish a regulatory framework that will provide consistency in remediation activities statewide. It is important to note that PFOA and PFOS are just two of potentially thousands of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS). To date Vermont and New Hampshire are the only other two states to set MCLs for PFAS. New York is working on similar standards. New Jersey issued a standard of 13 parts per trillion for perfluorononanoic acid...

Recent CERCLA Decision Allows Divisibility of Comingled Groundwater Plume

Recent CERCLA Decision Allows Divisibility of Comingled Groundwater Plume

In Burlington Northern, when the United States Supreme Court decided that joint and several liability under section 107 of CERCLA could be ameliorated in cases where the harm was theoretically capable of apportionment, potentially responsible parties (PRPs) hailed the decision outlining the test for divisibility as a great breakthrough. In practice, however, the availability of the divisibility defense that PRPs hoped would flow from the Burlington Northern decision has been limited, particularly in complex, comingled groundwater plume cases. In March 2020, however, the District Court in Von Duprin LLC v. Moran Electric Service, Inc. et al. (United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana – Indianapolis Division. Case No. 1:16-cv-01942-TWP-DML) issued the first CERCLA decision finding that a comingled groundwater plume was capable of apportionment because there was a reasonable basis to divide the harm. The District Court relied on the findings of one of the technical experts, who analyzed substantial groundwater monitoring results from four different source areas and demonstrated that the magnitude of the concentrations and chemical characteristics of the Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds (CVOCs) were different in the four source areas. The Von Duprin case involved the release of hazardous substances at four properties located in Indianapolis,...

U.S. Supreme Court Remands Clean Water Act Case to the Fourth Circuit for Further Consideration in Light of “Functional Equivalent” Test from County of Maui

U.S. Supreme Court Remands Clean Water Act Case to the Fourth Circuit for Further Consideration in Light of “Functional Equivalent” Test from County of Maui

The effects of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund have begun to ripple out. In County of Maui, the Court held that the Clean Water Act requires a permit where there is a “functional equivalent of a direct discharge” from a “point source” into “navigable waters.” The Court acknowledged the “difficulty with this approach” in dealing with the “middle instances,” and provided a non-exhaustive list of seven factors that may be considered in determining whether a “functional equivalent of a direct discharge” exists in a particular circumstance. “Time and distance will be the most important factors in most cases, but not necessarily in every case,” the Court guided. In Kinder Morgan Energy v. Upstate Forever, a Clean Water Act case seeking certiorari of a decision from the Fourth Circuit, the Supreme Court followed County of Maui by issuing an Order granting certiorari, vacating the Fourth Circuit’s decision, and remanding the case to the Court of Appeals for “further consideration in light of County of Maui.” In Kinder Morgan Energy, two environmental groups argued that Kinder Morgan was illegally discharging pollutants into navigable waters without a permit under the Clean Water Act. Similar...

Who’s in Charge Here?: Third Circuit Holds That Government Was Not an “Operator” of Jersey City Chromium Facility for Purposes of Superfund Liability

Who’s in Charge Here?: Third Circuit Holds That Government Was Not an “Operator” of Jersey City Chromium Facility for Purposes of Superfund Liability

Federal courts have long struggled to determine the shape and boundaries of the wide liability net cast by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund law. In its recent decision in PPG Industries Inc. v. United States, the Third Circuit applied circuit and Supreme Court precedent to hold that the government’s influence over a chromite ore processing plant in Jersey City during World War I and World War II was not pervasive or intrusive enough to make the government a past “operator” of the plant and thus liable for cleanup costs. Prior to PPG’s 1954 acquisition of the plant (which it continued to operate until 1963), Natural Products Refining Corporation (NPRC) operated the plant, which processed chromite ore into various chromium chemicals, including sodium bichromate. During both World War I and World War II (when it designated the plant’s output as critical war materials, i.e., products manufactured for direct military use), the government regulated the production of chromium chemicals. Through a variety of price, labor, and production controls, the government sought to encourage increased production of these key chemicals. Those efforts, however, did not extend to direct control over day-to-day operations or to...

SCOTUS Creates “Functional Equivalent” Test to Determine Whether Point Source Dischargers Are Subject to the Clean Water Act

SCOTUS Creates “Functional Equivalent” Test to Determine Whether Point Source Dischargers Are Subject to the Clean Water Act

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a decision in the most prominent Clean Water Act (CWA) case since its 2006 plurality decision in Rapanos v. United States. In County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, the Court interpreted the landmark statute to require a permit where there is a “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge from a “point source” into “navigable waters.” The likely impact of this holding for the parties is to subject the County of Maui to the statute’s permitting requirements for its discharges of treated wastewater through wells to groundwater that eventually reach the ocean. Beyond the parties, environmental groups are likely to cheer this decision while the regulated community, and lower courts, will likely be wary of the Court’s multifactor test. The CWA prohibits the “addition” of any pollutant from a “point source” to “navigable waters” without a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The County of Maui came before the Court as the operator of a wastewater reclamation facility in Maui, Hawaii. That facility collects sewage, partially treats it, then pumps that water into four underground wells. The effluent then travels about a half mile through groundwater to the Pacific Ocean. For nearly...