S-232 (Singleton) – Environmental Justice Legislation Testimony
TO: Members of the New Jersey State Senate
FROM: Hilary Chebra, Manager, Government Affairs, CCSNJ
DATE: June 29, 2020
The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey (CCSNJ) would like to respectfully submit its opposition to S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg), which requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to evaluate environmental and public health stressors of certain facilities on overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications. The CCSNJ is the region’s largest and most influential business organization representing businesses in the seven most southern counties of New Jersey, as well as greater Philadelphia and northern Delaware with more than 1,100 member companies. Thank you for the opportunity to provide our thoughts on S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg).
The CCSNJ strongly supports the concept of environmental justice legislation, as well as its intended goal as it attempts to tackle the complex issue of assuring a healthy environment in certain urban communities. However, as currently written S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg) is overly broad and would likely have an unintended consequence of making these target communities less attractive for future economic growth. Additionally, this bill would disproportionally impact New Jersey-based manufacturers and certain public institutions and serve as a disincentive to expand facilities or attract out-of-state manufacturers to urban communities where the job growth is needed most.
The CCSNJ has three primary concerns with S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg) in its current form:
- The definition of “overburdened community” is overly broad. Although appreciative of Senator Singleton’s recent changes to this definition, as written the definition recognizes poverty as a factor (as noted in the definition of “low-income household”) but does not rely on any objective environmental/health impacts as a defining factor. Instead, the bill disproportionately focuses on lowincome communities without any consideration as to the current environmental data that currently exists, for better or worse.
- The definition of “facility” is also overly broad and sweeps many New Jersey manufacturers and other businesses into a category of being in environmental violation, regardless if they have regularly beenmeeting NJDEP’s long list of permitting and testing standards. Based on the definition in S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg), in South Jersey alone approximately 80 facilities, including hospital systems and institutions of higher education – many of these in “overburdened communities” – would be in violation simply due to overaggressive language in the legislation.
- In section 4, a facility cannot be approved for any type of permit (new facility, expansion of an existing facility, or the renewal of an existing facility’s major source permit) unless the applicant does a series of things – some of which are out of their control – such as, conducting a public hearing and assuring the public is made aware of it through a variety of sources that may or may not be available, providing updates and information at the public hearing which are loosely defined and confusing in the legislation, and requiring an applicant to assess a number of factors beyond its control to quantify how their businessmay impact a community. These are unfair burdens to put on an applicant, especially seeing the limited direction the legislation gives towards assuring compliance is met and the lack of control around socioeconomic/ demographic information.
The CCSNJ agrees that New Jersey should be assessing the health and environmental impacts on low-income communities and communities of color, and commends the incredible strides being made by NJDEP’s Office of Environmental Justice, which specifically focuses on the residents of overburdened communities, as well as guiding state agencies and the NJDEP’s program areas in incorporating environmental justice across the board. However, S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg), although well-intended, misses the mark. We encourage the sponsor to respectfully reconsider the broad language in the bill and to bring employers, many of which want nothing more than bettering the communities in which they are located, to the table to help find a collective solution to this complex and critical issues in many overburdened communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to present our position on S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg).