A coalition of environmental groups is pushing for Gov. Phil Murphy to stop permits and projects from moving forward without full in-person public participation, which is hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Jersey Sierra Club, Environment New Jersey, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Clean Ocean Action and Surfrider Foundation are among 60 groups that signed a letter to Murphy in late March.

It's an effort by the broad coalition called "Empower NJ- No Fossil Fuel Projects."

The coalition pointed to recent public hearings still carried out by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority on its proposed toll hike to fund highway expansion among other projects.

"There is very serious concern that towns will move ahead with major developments and zone changes that could have statewide implications on the environment, flooding, and even public health," according to the letter addressed to Murphy, dated March 31.

"If local government does online municipal council, zoning and planning board meetings, it will not allow for a give and take with experts being questioned or witnesses being cross-examined and it will severely limit the dialogue with the public."

The coalition said its members believe such meetings must be postponed during the public health emergency unless they are dealing directly with COVID-19 or immediate public safety issues.

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