(Trenton) – The bill (S232 – Singleton/McKeon/Weinberg/Ruiz) permits NJDEP to deny or condition certain permits due to cumulative, disproportionate impacts of pollution in environmental justice communities — it’s been more than a decade in the making. The Assembly passed the bill 49-28-1 and the Senate passed it 21-14 on a straight party line vote. The bill will go to the Governor who endorsed the bill at a press conference on Juneteenth.
“This bill gives the state the power to ‘just say no more’ pollution in my neighborhood. My children can look forward to breathing cleaner air as they recreate in Weequahic Park. Thanks to Senator Singleton, Assemblyman McKeon and Governor Murphy, New Jersey is that much closer to having the strongest EJ law in the nation and demonstrating that Black Lives Matter,” said Newark resident Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action. “Environmental justice (EJ) communities like mine have suffered far too long and now after 10 years, our voices have been heard and our communities will receive the right environmental protection for our complexion.”
“S232 gives us hope. Hope that our pleas for the right to breathe will be heard next time we face off with polluters who have been targeting Black and brown neighborhoods for decades. We can’t end environmental racism with one bill but we must take this historical first step,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director, Organizing and Advocacy, Ironbound Community Corp. “Newark has a fighting chance to breathe easier thanks to this bill.”
“Passing this bill is a critical step towards ensuring that all residents of New Jersey, regardless of their zip code and color of their skin, have the right to good health, clean air, and safe waters,” said Melissa Miles, Executive Director, NJ Environmental Justice Alliance. “This is the moment of reckoning for racial and environmental justice in our country that makes it imperative to act.”
Key provisions of the bill are:
- Requires major polluters seeking certain permits in overburdened communities to develop “Environmental Justice Impact Statements” (EJIS) with substantive detail, meaningful public input, and real DEP oversight including technical assistance to impacted communities.
- Empowers DEP to deny or condition certain permits due to disproportionate impacts based on the EJIS.
- Defines “overburdened communities” as those with significant non-white, non-English speaking or low income populations.
“This is a historic bill for a historic moment in our country. This EJ bill will be a beacon for communities throughout New Jersey and around the country suffering from the legacy of environmental racism and pollution.” said Ana Isabel Baptista, PhD, Ironbound Community Corporation and NJ Environmental Justice Alliance Trustee.
“The cumulative impacts policy embodied in today’s legislation will provide a foundation from which New Jersey can address environmental justice. We should combine this legislation with other policies in order to fully achieve environmental justice in our state,” said Nicky Sheats, Esq., Ph.D., New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. “We will need cumulative policies to address cumulative impacts and environmental justice in New Jersey in a comprehensive manner. Congratulations to everyone who worked on today’s legislation and to everyone who voted for it!”