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TRENTON, NJ-The controversial fast-track legislationpassed by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly is now further away from being implemented. Acting Gov. Richard Codey yesterday signed an executive order that extended a moratorium on the legislation’s implementation.

Pushed through the legislature a year ago during the administration of former Gov. Jim McGreevey, the bill was seen as a trade-off for developers in exchange for support of legislation that effectively took nearly 900,000 acres of land in northwestern New Jersey off the table regarding development. The so-called Highlands region provides drinking water for much of the state. In essence, the fast-track bill put a two-year limit on the amount of time that the permitting and approval process could take in other parts of the state targeted for growth.

But shortly after McGreevey signed the bill into law, a firestorm of controversy led the now-former governor to issue an executive order delaying implementation pending further study. McGreevey, of course, resigned last November. Codey’s executive order extends that moratorium.

Codey signed the order without comment. That order reads, in part, that “until such time as the federal government and the [New Jersey] DEP reach agreement concerning the impact, if any, of DEP’s proposed [fast-track] rules…no expedited permit, permit-by-rule, or general permit…may be accepted for review by any state department or division.”

“This is a victory for the people of this state, and for the environment,” Jeff Tittel, who heads the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, told reporters after the order was issued. “[Acting] Gov. Codey has halted ‘fast-track’ in its tracks.” At the regulatory level, New Jersey has officially regarded the fast-track legislation as a work in progress. Says Patrick Gillespie, who holds the title of Smart Growth Ombudsman, “in the long run, streamlining permits will save more open space.”

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