New Jersey’s landmark environmental justice law closer to reality. – Low Calorie Diets Tips

New Jersey is a big step closer to enacting a landmark environmental justice law. Two years ago, the state passed legislation to limit industrial pollution in neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color, low-income households, or residents who are not fluent in English. The State Office for Environmental Protection has now submitted a proposal for a regulation that regulates exactly how this is to be done.

New Jersey’s landmark law served as a blueprint for other states working to pass similar legislation. The 153-page draft rule released earlier this month by the state Environmental Protection Department is likely to set a similar precedent.

Environmental justice advocates say that’s a good thing. “We’re very fortunate,” said Nicky Sheats, founding member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. For more than a decade, Sheats and other environmental justice advocates have urged New Jersey to consider the cumulative impact that industrial pollution has on neighborhoods. Like most states nationwide, New Jersey approves pollution permits based on whether or not facilities meet individual standards. In practice, this means that the same amount of pollution that would come from a single facility is perfectly legal if it comes from multiple facilities that are close together.

“It’s a real problem in communities of color and low-income,” which have a disproportionate share of dirty industries like gas-fired power plants, incinerators and sewage treatment plants, “because you don’t take that into account total amount of pollution in a neighborhood,” Sheats said.

A handful of other states direct their environmental agencies to consider cumulative impacts, but New Jersey’s law is the first in the country to require the Department of Environmental Protection to deny applications for permits if it determines a facility will create disproportionately high value or this would contribute to cumulative exposure to the surrounding neighborhood.

“It’s a very important point because it was a point of intense, intense debate in passing the law,” said Ana Baptista, a professor at the New School. “It really gave him strength.”

Following the passage of the law in 2020, the Department of Environmental Protection held a series of six stakeholder meetings with communities, environmental justice leaders and affected industries. Taking input from these meetings into account, the agency prepared the draft rules released earlier this month.

The rule provides details on how the Department of Environmental Protection will handle permit requests. If a polluting facility wishes to build or expand within a congested community, the draft rule requires it to produce a thorough report assessing its contributions to the cumulative impact on those living nearby. The agency must then publish the report and hold a public hearing before deciding on the permit application.

This transparency will allow ordinary people from impacted neighborhoods to play an important role in the decision-making process — a key tenet of environmental justice — said Melissa Miles, executive director of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. “For a long time, so much happened behind closed doors,” she said. “Now all of this will be publicly available.”

Community members and businesses will have an opportunity to comment publicly on the draft rule before the state finalizes it, which it plans to do by the end of the year. Environmental justice advocates hope that some elements of the draft rule will be strengthened or clarified. For example, the draft rule provides an exception for polluting facilities that serve a significant environmental, health or safety need in the host community – such as waste composting facilities or projects to prevent sewage spills. Economic factors, such as increased tax revenues or employment opportunities, are expressly excluded from consideration. Baptista and other environmental justice advocates have worked hard to ensure it’s a narrow exception, but Baptista said there was still room for improvement and tightening of the rule’s wording “to make sure it doesn’t serve as a loophole.” “.

While the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is determining exactly how it will implement the law, the state’s approach to cumulative impacts appears to be gaining ground. Troy Singleton, the state senator who brought the New Jersey law to the finish line, recently told Politico that he has spoken to policymakers in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware about similar legislation. Last month New York passed its own Environmental Justice Act, but Gov. Kathy Hochul has yet to sign the law into law.

Maria Lopez-Nuñez, associate director of organization and advocacy for the Newark-based group Ironbound Community Corporation, hopes other states and the federal government will follow New Jersey’s lead. “We need to stop digging down this hole of perpetual inequality in communities of color and low-income,” she said. “We can’t just keep evaluating and looking at the problem. We really have to say no to the industry when it harms communities and adds to the problems that already exist there.”

“That will only happen if more states pass environmental justice laws that have strong enforcement capacities,” Lopez-Nuñez said.

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