TRENTON – On the first day of Earth Week, Governor Phil Murphy Monday announced the final adoption of regulations to implement New Jersey’s landmark Environmental Justice (EJ) Law.
The EJ Law and implementing rules are the first in the nation aimed at reducing pollution in historically overburdened communities and communities of color that have been subjected to a disproportionately high number of environmental and public health stressors.
The EJ Rules were developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through an extensive stakeholder process that brought together affected communities, environmental and public health advocates, and leaders in business and industry to offer critical insights that shaped the regulations. Effective upon their publication in the New Jersey Register Monday, the EJ Rules pioneer a community-first approach to planning and permitting certain pollution-generating facilities.
First, the rules require enhanced upfront community engagement before such facilities are proposed in the state’s overburdened communities.
Second, using community-level environmental and public health data available through DEP’s Environmental Justice Mapping, Assessment and Protection (EJMAP) tool, the EJ Rules direct permit applicants to avoid and minimize environmental and public health stressors and enable the DEP to establish permit conditions that better protect vulnerable communities.
“Since the outset of my Administration, we have worked incredibly hard to ensure that all people—regardless of income, race, ethnicity, color, or national origin—can enjoy their right to live, work, learn, and recreate in a clean and healthy environment,” Murphy said. “As we enter Earth Week 2023, the final adoption of DEP’s EJ Rules will further the promise of environmental justice by prioritizing meaningful community engagement, reducing public health risks through the use of innovative pollution controls, and limiting adverse impacts that new pollution-generating facilities can have in already vulnerable communities.”
“With the adoption of the nation’s first EJ Rules, New Jersey is on a course to more equitably protect public health and the environment we share,” said Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. “My DEP colleagues and I are grateful for the partnership of frontline community leaders and those in the business community who worked with us to build regulations that will make our environment and our neighbors’ lived experiences of it better. While our work is far from complete, the EJ Rules offer new hope for New Jersey communities long overburdened by pollution, and new opportunity for New Jersey businesses to demonstrate their commitment to equity and environmental stewardship.”
“The rules that implement the state’s environmental justice law have the potential to provide significant relief to New Jersey’s overburdened communities,” said Kandyce Perry, Director of the DEP Office of Environmental Justice. “The law and implementing regulations are just one of the State’s tools to further the promise of environmental justice. New Jersey’s work to make our state a fairer and more equitable place for all does not begin and end with the Environmental Justice Law. Though we are leading the nation in considering cumulative stressors when reviewing permits, we will continue to seek every opportunity and authority the State has to apply a lens of environmental justice to our work. I look forward to continuing partnerships with environmental justice advocates, residents of overburdened communities, and the regulated community in furthering progress along this important journey.”
Under the EJ Rules, when proposing to locate certain pollution-generating facilities in an overburdened community, an applicant must prepare an environmental justice impact statement and engage directly with members of their proposed host community by hosting a public hearing. The applicant must collect all public comments and respond to them in writing. DEP will then evaluate whether pollution from the proposed facility would cause or contribute to environmental and public health stressors at levels disproportionate to those in less burdened communities. The EJ Rules require permit applicants to avoid and minimize such stressors, including through the use of added pollution control technology. Where disproportionate impacts are not avoidable, certain new facilities could be limited, or existing facilities could be subject to additional permit conditions that reduce environmental and public health stressors affecting the community.
Governor Murphy signed the nation’s strongest EJ Law in 2020 to address inequities inherent to preexisting environmental laws. Historically, New Jersey’s overburdened communities and communities of color have been subject to a disproportionately high number of environmental and public health stressors, including pollution from numerous industrial, commercial, and governmental facilities. As a result, residents in the State’s overburdened communities have suffered from increased adverse health effects.
The EJ Law enhances existing environmental laws that did not previously enable DEP to consider environmental and public health stressors on a community level and empowers DEP to evaluate pollution potential on a facility-wide basis and apply conditions that will help facilities avoid and minimize adverse impacts.
There are eight types of facilities covered by the EJ Rules:
1. Major sources of air pollution (i.e., gas fired power plants and cogeneration facilities);
2. Resource recovery facilities or incinerators; sludge processing facilities;
3. Sewage treatment plants with a capacity of more than 50 million gallons per day;
4. Transfer stations or solid waste facilities;
5. Recycling facilities that receive at least 100 tons of recyclable material per day;
6. Scrap metal facilities;
7. Landfills; or
8. Medical waste incinerators, except those attendant to hospitals and universities.
To support implementation of the EJ Rules, the DEP developed the Environmental Justice Mapping, Assessment and Protection (EJMAP) tool to help users locate overburdened communities, identify covered facilities within those communities, and analyze relative environmental and public health stressors impacting those communities.