On April 17, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the final adoption of regulations to implement New Jersey’s 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 state’s EJ rules were developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through a stakeholder process that brought together affected communities, environmental and public health advocates, and leaders in business and industry for insights. The rules require enhanced upfront community engagement before 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.
Under the rules, when proposing to locate certain pollution-generating facilities in an overburdened community, an applicant must prepare an EJ 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 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.
Eight types of facilities are covered by the EJ rules: major sources of air pollution (i.e., gas fired power plants and cogeneration facilities); resource recovery facilities or incinerators; sludge processing facilities; sewage treatment plants with a capacity of more than 50 million gallons per day; transfer stations or solid waste facilities; recycling facilities that receive at least 100 tons of recyclable material per day; scrap metal facilities; landfills; and medical waste incinerators, except those attendant to hospitals and universities.