TRENTON – A bill that would require each state agency to review permits issued by the agency and make necessary changes to expedite and facilitate permitting was unanimously released by the Senate State Government Committee.
This bill, S2499, would expand and strengthen agencies’ abilities to review periodically permits issued by them, in order to identify permits that are obsolete or that could be administered through an expedited procedure.
The Assembly’s version of the bill, A3323, enjoys bipartisan support, with sponsors including Ruben Ramos, John Burzichelli, Chris Brown and John Amodeo.
However, Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club, blasted the bill, S2499, calling it vague and saying it would add more red tape rather than streamlining the permitting process.
“This legislation is arbitrary and subject to abuse,” he said. “It will end up hurting the environment as well as taxpayers and public health.”
The bill would require the Secretary of State, or other state officer, to post on its website and submit to the Governor and the Legislature, by March 1 of each year, a report that summarizes the information contained in the various state agency comprehensive written reviews. The bill would also require the Governor, after due consideration of the annual report, to: (1) direct the head of each State agency to make such changes to the State agency’s permitting systems; issue executive orders if necessary; and (3) seek changes to state Statues through legislative approval.
The bill also state that the head of each state agency would be authorized to adopt rules and regulations as necessary to put the changes in place.
Tittel said the bill basically amounts to weakening environmental regulations, and having some person determine which permits/permitting process is obsolete is subjective.
“We are concerned that there are no criteria to make that decision, that it could be arbitrary or about politics and not about substance,” he said. “They could eliminate standards that protect our drinking water or cleanup of toxic sites. Simplification of permitting is usually a buzzword to take out public scrutiny and scientific analysis.”