New Jersey adopts environmental justice law to protect minority communities

The legislation requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the environmental and public health impacts of certain facilities, including fossil fuel plants, on overburdened communities

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed a landmark law aimed at protecting vulnerable and minority communities from future pollution.

The legislation requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the environmental and public health impacts of certain facilities on overburdened communities when reviewing permit applications.

That includes major sources of air pollution, i.e. gas-fired power plants and cogeneration facilities, resource recovery facilities or incinerators, sewage treatment plants with a capacity of more than 50 million gallons per day, recycling facilities that receive at least 100 tons of recyclable materials per day, scrap metal facilities, landfills and medical waste incinerators, except those attendant to hospitals and universities.

New Jersey has become the first state in the US to require mandatory permit denials if an environmental justice analysis determines a new facility will have a disproportionately negative impact on overburdened communities.

The bill defines an overburdened community as any community where 35% of the households qualify as low income.

According to the US Census, 40% of households are minority or 40% have limited English proficiency.

There are around 310 municipalities with populations totalling approximately 4.4 million that have overburdened communities.

Governor Murphy said: “Today we are sending a clear message that we will longer allow Black and Brown communities in our state to be dumping grounds, where access to clean air and clean water are overlooked.

“This action is a historic step to ensure that true community input and collaboration will factor into decisions that have a cumulative impact for years to come. I’m incredibly proud that New Jersey is now home to the strongest environmental justice law in the nation.”

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