An appellate court last month effectively negated the state Department of Environmental Protection’s authority over public access to beaches and waterfronts in New Jersey by tossing out the DEP’s existing rules governing that access. Reaction from the environmental community was mixed; some groups dissatisfied with the rules praised the decision while calling for quick action to establish new regulations. Others are fearful of the impact that the DEP’s loss of authority may have on public access and are urging an appeal of the decision.
In a recent interview with The Asbury Park Press, Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, explained his organization’s views and how environmentalists as a whole are interpreting the court ruling.
"The Littoral Society believes that it is imperative that the Legislature pass a bill that clearly and unequivocally grants DEP the authority to adopt rules that regulate and promote meaningful public access to the waterfront. Without that, it would seem that any rules adopted on an emergency basis or otherwise would be highly susceptible to a jurisdictional challenge. Before the 2012 rules were invalidated, significant provisions of the 2007 rules also were invalidated on jurisdictional grounds. So any new rule, emergency or otherwise, is vulnerable to a challenge without the Legislature granting DEP this authority.
“We have urged the DEP to seek review by the New Jersey Supreme Court because we believe it is essential that in order for the public’s right to access the waterfront to be implemented and protected, the DEP needs to have the power to adopt regulations that provide for and regulate public access."
This content is excerpted from The Asbury Park Press. Read more from the interview by clicking here.