Yesterday, was a big day for climate change policy in New Jersey.  Official announcements were made on plans to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050 and to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 2006 levels.  The announcements also included plans to address sea level rise and chronic flooding in development projects, and to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector.

Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 100 directing the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to adopt within two years the Protecting Against Climate Threats (PACT) regulations.  The broad-sweeping climate change program is being hailed as the first of its kind in the United States.

The Executive Order sets forth two main focuses for the new regulations.

The first is to identify all significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions through a new statewide monitoring and reporting program and establishing criteria to reduce those emissions.  These programs have the potential to impact many businesses and industries throughout the state.

The second focus is the main concern for New Jersey’s commercial real estate and development community.  Here, the Executive Order directs NJDEP to “integrate” climate change considerations, such as sea level rise, into its regulatory and permitting programs.  These programs include, but are not limited to, land use (flood hazard, wetlands, coastal), water supply, stormwater, wastewater, air quality, solid waste, and site remediation permitting.  The actual impact of these changes will depend on the final regulations, where, no doubt the devil will be in the details.

With the two-year deadline, quick action by NJDEP is largely expected – NJDEP released yesterday its Administrative Order No. 2020-01.  The order lays out the timeframe for the various regulatory actions to develop, propose, and finalize the PACT regulations.  With respect to incorporating climate change issues into its flood hazard, wetlands, coastal zone, and stormwater regulations, as well as any other regulations addressing flood storage, flooding, or inundation, NJDEP says it will propose regulations in 12 months and, if appropriate, adopt them within 24 months.

The Energy Master Plan was also released yesterday.  The plan lays out seven strategies and an implementation plan to achieve the 100% clean energy by 2050, which includes carbon-neutral electricity generation, maximum electrification of the transportation and building sectors, and greenhouse gas emission reduction.  The plan identifies the building sector as one of the top producers of greenhouse gas emissions and includes a chapter dedicated to reducing energy consumption and emissions from the sector.