NJ adopts one of the nation's toughest environmental justice laws. See what the CCSNJ has to say.
NJ just adopted one of the nation's toughest environmental justice laws. Here's what it does:
Companies looking to build a power plant or factory that would produce significant pollution in a low-income or minority community will face more scrutiny after Gov. Phil Murphy signed one of the country's most stringent environmental justice bills into law.
The legislation would affect communities in more than half of the state's municipalities, where officials say neighbors have borne a greater level of pollution, and the public health risks and lowered life expectancy that go along with it.
"This law will bring with it a sea change in how government looks at its ultimate responsibility to ensure the rights of its people to clean air and clean water," Murphy said at a signing ceremony in Newark.
But it was revived in June in the midst of large-scale Black Lives Matter demonstrations in New Jersey and around the U.S.
Murphy publicly threw support behind it on Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of American slavery.
Republican lawmakers and business groups have said the new regulations would hamper economic growth by dissuading companies from building in poor, urban areas.
Here's what the law does:
What communities are affected?
The law (S-232) targets neighborhoods that are considered "overburdened" by the effects of pollution. This is defined as census blocks that meet at least one of three criteria:
- At least 35% of the households are low income
- At least 40% of residents identify as minority or as part of a state-recognized tribal community
- At least 40% of households with limited English proficiency
There are 310 municipalities in New Jersey with neighborhoods that are considered overburdened.
"We know the pollution burden is not evenly distributed," said Mayor Ras Baraka, of Newark, at the signing ceremony. "And we bear that burden as cities like Newark more than other municipalities."
Among those speaking at the bill signing were Newark residents and environmental activists Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action, Melissa Miles of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and Maria Lopez-Nunez of the Ironbound Community Corp. All said their children have been impacted by pollution, including Gaddy and Miles' kids, who have asthma.
Almost five times the number of African Americans with asthma died from the disease compared to Caucasians based on an analysis of data from 2015 to 2017 by the state Department of Health. Hispanics were almost twice as likely to die from asthma than Caucasians during that same time period.
What polluting facilities are affected?
- Any major source of air pollution such as a fossil-fuel power plant or refinery
- Incinerators including those that burn medical waste
- Large sewage treatment plants and sludge processing facilities
- Transfer stations for solid waste, large recycling centers and scrap metal facilities
- Landfills, including those that accept ash, construction debris and solid waste
The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey had lobbied against the bill, saying that it does not rely on any objective environmental or health impacts as a defining factor for what communities could be affected.
Michael Egenton, executive vice president at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said Friday that he hopes the Department of Environmental Protection would have more consideration for New Jersey businesses looking to possibly expand. "We want to make sure this is done in a manner that is not detrimental to businesses that are already in those communities," he said.
What are the new regulations?
A company that wants to build a project covered in the law must submit an impact statement that assesses whether it would exacerbate a number of diseases and debilitating conditions. This includes:
- lead levels in blood
- cardiovascular disease
- developmental problems
The company must also hold a public hearing in that community prior to any permit approvals.
The Department of Environmental Protection can deny a permit if it finds the cumulative environmental or public health impact of the project would be higher in the overburdened community rather than other non-burdenedNew Jersey communities.
Are there loopholes?
The law allows the DEP latitude in permitting when it comes to projects that "serve a compelling public interest in the community where it is to be located." That may mean a project like NJ Transit's proposed gas-fired power plant in Kearny that the Murphy administration supports may not be covered by the new law.
Related Links : https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/environment/2020/09/18/murphy-oks-tough-environmental-bill-nj-development/3491216001/
Source : https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/environment/2020/09/18/murphy-oks-tough-environmental-bill-nj-development/3491216001/