A Guide to the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The New Jersey Environmental Impact Review (EO 215) is a critical regulation that shapes the landscape of development projects in the Garden State. This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of EO 215, providing essential insights for navigating the environmental review process. Discover the key regulated activities and entities, understand the structure and core provisions of the regulation, and learn how to effectively manage compliance obligations. Explore recent developments shaping the regulatory landscape and access valuable resources to support project planning and execution. By unraveling the complexities of EO 215, this guide empowers informed decision-making and proactive environmental stewardship in New Jersey's development sector.


Key Details of the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review

  • Issuing Agency: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)
  • Year Established: 1970
  • Last Amended: 2022
  • Statutory Authority: New Jersey Executive Order No. 215 (1989)
  • Primary Legal Reference: New Jersey Administrative Code Title 7, Chapter 1C

Overview of the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review

The New Jersey Environmental Impact Review (EIR) is a state-level environmental assessment process that operates within the broader framework of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The EIR was established in 1989 through Executive Order No. 215, which requires state agencies to assess the environmental impacts of certain state-funded construction projects.

The primary goal of the EIR is to ensure that state-funded projects consider and mitigate potential adverse environmental impacts. The NJDEP is the lead agency responsible for administering and enforcing the EIR process, working in collaboration with other state agencies involved in construction projects.

The EIR process is triggered when a state-funded construction project meets certain thresholds, such as project cost or land disturbance. Once triggered, the sponsoring agency must prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), depending on the project's potential for significant environmental impacts. The NJDEP reviews and approves these documents before the project can proceed.

The EIR is limited in scope to state-funded construction projects and does not apply to private or federally-funded projects. However, it serves as an important complement to federal environmental regulations, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), by ensuring that state-level projects also undergo environmental review.

What does the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review protect?

The New Jersey Environmental Impact Review (EIR) protects a wide range of environmental resources from potential adverse impacts caused by state-funded construction projects. These resources include:

  1. Air quality
  2. Water resources, including surface water, groundwater, and wetlands
  3. Soil and geology
  4. Wildlife and their habitats
  5. Threatened and endangered species
  6. Cultural and historical resources
  7. Scenic and recreational resources

The EIR process requires sponsoring agencies to assess the potential impacts of their projects on these resources and to develop mitigation measures to minimize or avoid any significant adverse effects. By mandating this environmental review process, the EIR helps to protect New Jersey's natural, cultural, and recreational resources from unnecessary degradation due to state-funded construction activities.


Regulated Activities & Entities

The New Jersey Environmental Impact Review, as mandated by Executive Order No. 215 (EO 215), is a comprehensive environmental review process that applies to various activities and entities involved in development projects within the state. This regulation aims to ensure that potential environmental impacts are thoroughly assessed and mitigated before project approval and implementation.

The primary industries and entities subject to the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review include:

  1. State agencies undertaking construction projects
  2. Private developers working on projects that require state permits or approvals
  3. Projects receiving state funding or financial assistance
  4. Large-scale residential, commercial, and industrial developments
  5. Infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, and utilities

Under EO 215, certain activities and project types are prohibited or strictly regulated due to their potential for significant environmental harm. These include:

  • Development in wetlands, floodplains, or other environmentally sensitive areas
  • Projects that would lead to significant habitat destruction or fragmentation
  • Activities causing substantial air or water pollution, such as the release of toxic substances or excessive nutrient loads
  • Development that would negatively impact threatened or endangered species
  • Projects contributing to urban sprawl or excessive land consumption

The reasoning behind these prohibitions is to protect New Jersey's natural resources, maintain biodiversity, and ensure sustainable development practices. By carefully regulating activities with the potential for significant environmental damage, the state aims to strike a balance between economic growth and ecological preservation.

Structure and Key Provisions

Definitions (N.J.A.C. 7:1D-2.1)

This section provides clear definitions for key terms used throughout the regulation, such as "environmental impact," "state agency," and "major construction project." Understanding these definitions is crucial for determining whether a particular project or activity falls under the purview of EO 215.

Applicability (N.J.A.C. 7:1D-3.1)

The applicability section outlines the specific criteria that trigger the requirement for an environmental review under EO 215. This includes project size thresholds, state agency involvement, and the receipt of state funding or approvals. Developers must carefully review this section to determine if their project is subject to the environmental impact review process.

Environmental Assessment Requirements (N.J.A.C. 7:1D-4.1)

This section details the content and format requirements for environmental assessments submitted under EO 215. It specifies the types of information that must be included, such as project descriptions, site characteristics, and potential environmental impacts across various categories (e.g., air quality, water resources, biodiversity). Adhering to these requirements ensures that the reviewing agencies have sufficient information to evaluate the project's environmental implications.

Public Participation (N.J.A.C. 7:1D-5.1)

EO 215 emphasizes the importance of public participation in the environmental review process. This section outlines the procedures for public notice, comment periods, and hearings related to environmental assessments. Engaging stakeholders and considering public input is essential for making informed decisions and addressing community concerns.

Agency Responsibilities (N.J.A.C. 7:1D-6.1)

The agency responsibilities section assigns specific roles and obligations to the various state agencies involved in the environmental review process, such as the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Community Affairs. Understanding these responsibilities helps developers navigate the review process and engage with the appropriate agencies for guidance and approvals.

It is important to note that this overview provides a general understanding of the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review's structure and key provisions. However, developers and consultants must consult the full text of the regulation and work closely with the relevant state agencies to ensure compliance with all applicable requirements for their specific projects.


Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The New Jersey Environmental Impact Review (EIR) establishes various standards and limitations to mitigate the environmental impact of development projects in the state. These may include emissions limits for air pollutants, performance standards for wastewater treatment, and other relevant metrics depending on the specific project type and location.1 The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is responsible for implementing and enforcing these standards through a combination of permit requirements, inspections, and other regulatory mechanisms.2

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the New Jersey EIR, regulated entities are typically required to conduct regular monitoring of their environmental performance, maintain detailed records, and submit periodic reports to the NJDEP. The specific monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements may vary depending on the project type, size, and potential environmental impact. Developers and consultants should work closely with the NJDEP to understand and fulfill these obligations for their specific projects, as failure to comply can result in enforcement actions and penalties.3

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

The NJDEP has the authority to take various enforcement actions against entities that violate the provisions of the New Jersey EIR. These may include issuing notices of violation, administrative orders, and assessing civil or criminal penalties, depending on the severity and nature of the violation. In some cases, the NJDEP may also require violators to take corrective actions or implement additional monitoring and reporting requirements. To avoid enforcement actions and penalties, it is crucial for developers and consultants to proactively comply with the EIR requirements and engage early with the NJDEF to address any potential issues or concerns.4 Readers are encouraged to consult the full text of the regulation and work closely with the NJDEP to understand the specific enforcement provisions and penalty structures that may apply to their projects.


Recent Developments & Regulatory Outlook

In recent years, the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review has undergone several significant changes and developments that have shaped the current regulatory landscape. One of the most notable amendments was the introduction of the Environmental Justice Law (S232) in September 2020 5. This law requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to evaluate the environmental and public health impacts of certain facilities on overburdened communities, adding an additional layer of scrutiny to the environmental impact review process.

Another important development was the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in the case of In re Protest of Coastal Permit Program Rules in 2021 6. This decision affirmed the NJDEP's authority to adopt rules requiring the consideration of climate change and sea-level rise in the environmental impact review process, setting a precedent for the incorporation of climate change impacts in future reviews.

Looking ahead, stakeholders should be aware of potential regulatory changes and policy shifts that may affect the implementation of the New Jersey Environmental Impact Review. For example, the NJDEP is currently considering amendments to the stormwater management rules 7. Additionally, the state legislature is considering several bills related to environmental justice and climate change adaptation, which could lead to further changes in the regulatory landscape.

To stay informed about these developments, stakeholders can monitor the NJDEP's website and sign up for email updates on specific topics of interest 8. Engaging with industry associations, such as the New Jersey Builders Association or the New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association, can also provide valuable insights and opportunities to participate in the regulatory process.

Additional Resources

New Jersey Environmental Justice Law (S232): The full text of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Law, which requires the consideration of environmental justice impacts in the environmental impact review process.

New Jersey Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center: A centralized online resource provided by the NJDEP, offering information, tools, and guidance on climate change adaptation and resilience planning in New Jersey, which can be relevant for environmentalight reviews.


  1. N.J.A.C. 7:1E-1.1 et seq., "Environmental Impact Review Rules," New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

  2. "Compliance & Enforcement," New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, https://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/.

  3. "Compliance & Enforcement," New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, https://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/.

  4. "Compliance & Enforcement," New Jersey Department of Environmental License Enforcement, https://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/.

  5. New Jersey Environmental Justice Law (S232), N.J.S.A. 13:1D-157 et seq., signed into law September 18, 2020.

  6. In re Protest of Coastal Permit Program Rules, 242 N.J. 357 (2021).

  7. NJDEP, "Stormwater Management Rules Amendments."

  8. NJDEP, "Email Updates,", https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/NJDEP/subscriber/new.

Keep up with the latest

A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the NJ EO 215. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.