NJ’s tough new environmental justice rule says half the state lives in “congested” neighborhoods – surprising some – Low Calorie Diets Tips

New Jersey on Monday proposed a new environmental justice rule that officials believe will be the toughest in the nation, citing nearly half the state’s population living in “overburdened communities” and the types of polluting businesses operating there can be built.

Under the rule, the DEP could reject any proposal for a new or expanded power plant, recycling plant, incinerator, sludge treatment, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, recycling plant, scrapyard, or other major source of potential pollution within a congested block group. Officials hope to enact the rule by the end of the year.

“This is a big deal because New Jersey is the first state in the country to make serious efforts to address the cumulative impacts of pollution that are disproportionately affecting low-income Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities,” Shawn LaTourette, the DEP commissioner said during a press conference last week.

The goal is to protect areas with concentrations of low-income or sizable populations of black and brown residents, such as Camden, from further pollution. The criteria used to determine these neighborhoods also bring parts of many towns not typically considered congested, such as Voorhees, Cherry Hill and Deptford, into the mix of potentially protected areas, according to an Inquirer analysis.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Environmental Justice Act in 2021, allowing the state Department of Environmental Protection to withhold permits for projects that would impact the environment in these already polluted areas.

» READ MORE: New Jersey Gov. Murphy signs environmental justice bill protecting minority communities

The rule — the regulation resulting from the law — defines for the first time a congested municipality as a census bloc group in which at least 35% of households are low-income, 40% of residents “identify as a minority,” or 40% of households have limited income knowledge of english Only one of these criteria must be met.

The rule would not be used to block housing developments or commercial establishments such as retail stores and industrial parks.

However, it would be applied to all types of newly regulated projects proposed for a block group deemed congested. Proposals would not be automatically rejected. Rather, regulators would assess whether a community already faces disproportionate levels of pollution and health problems compared to neighboring areas, and how a new project might affect those levels.

A developer can offer ways to reduce the impact, for example by electrifying their vehicle fleet, redirecting diesel-powered truck traffic, or using some type of technology. If a proposal would worsen pollution and health problems, the DEP can refuse approval.

However, the bar would likely be high for such a deal to be approved, officials said.

LaTourette said he hopes the rule will be passed by the end of the year after two public hearings in Trenton and separate hearings in Camden and Newark.

LaTourette sits on the Environmental Council of the States and says, “Everybody’s looking at this because it’s a game changer.”

Not everyone will be happy with the rule once it comes into effect, he said.

“For some it’s going to feel too big, too fast, too early, and for others it’s going to feel too little, too slow, too late,” LaTourette said, saying the rule is trying to strike a balance.

Regulated companies will “grow … and lawyers will spend entire careers splitting hairs about the rule,” he predicted.

“There is an obligation on this facility to do the right thing to the community that hosts it,” LaTourette said.

Sean Moriarty, DEP deputy commissioner for legal and regulatory affairs, said about 3,440 census groups representing 4.6 million people, about 51% of the state’s population, live in congested areas.

Almost all census blocks in cities like Camden and Trenton fall into the congested community category, meaning it will be difficult to establish any of the restricted businesses within those limits – a key intent of the law.

A total of 308 census blocks in South Jersey parishes in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties are identified as being overburdened. The state has launched an interactive mapping tool that identifies the communities.

Here are some examples of South Jersey cities in the immediate vicinity of Philadelphia with multiple congested blocks:

  • Burlington County: Burlington City, Burlington Township, Edgewater Park, Pemberton and Willingboro.

  • Camden County: Cherry Hill, Gloucester Parish, Lindenwold, Pennsauken, Voorhees and Winslow

  • County Gloucester: Clayton, Deptford, Glassboro, Paulsboro, Monroe, West Deptford

Kandyce Perry, director of DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice, said the state will consider any proposal by any of the newly regulated companies to locate in a congested community. Officials will determine whether the facility would have a “disproportionate” impact on residents by examining 26 environmental or health-related “stressors.”

Environmental stressors include existing air pollution, contaminated sites, solid waste facilities, scrapyards, and water pollution. Health stressors include asthma, cancer, blood lead levels, cardiovascular disease and developmental problems.

Perry helped create the online environmental justice mapping tool that regulators will use as a guide.

The tool, she said, will allow both regulators and the public to identify where congested communities are located and how close they are to existing polluting facilities, as well as the stressors communities are facing.

“This is also a step toward our environmental justice goal of giving everyone equal access to information to influence environmental decisions about what’s happening in their communities,” Perry said.

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