The New Jersey state Legislature has passed the final version of a sweeping environmental justice bill requiring a new level of permit review by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The new review requirements apply to applications for new facility construction, expansion of an existing facility, or renewal of an existing facility’s major source of pollution in an “overburdened community”.
An “overburdened community” means any census block group in which: (1) at least 35 percent of the households qualify as low-income households; (2) at least 40 percent of the residents identify as minority or as members of a state recognized tribal community; or (3) at least 40 percent of the households have limited English proficiency. NJDEP will be required to publish and maintain a list of overburdened communities in the state.
Affected facilities include power plants, refineries, incinerators or sludge processing facilities, large sewage treatment plants, landfills and solid waste transfer stations, and large recycling and scrap metal facilities.
Among its provisions, the bill requires affected permit applicants to develop an environmental
justice impact statement that assesses the potential environmental and public health stressors associated with the proposed activity. Applicants must also organize and convene public hearings in the community. The bill also authorizes NJDEP to assess each permit applicant a reasonable fee in order to cover the department’s costs associated with the bill’s requirements, including costs to provide technical assistance to permit applicants and overburdened communities.