New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Shawn LaTourette has issued an Administrative Order directing agency staff to meet the legislative intent of the state’s environmental justice law while the department develops regulations. Signed by Governor Phil Murphy in September 2020, the first-of-its-kind law authorizes the DEP to deny or condition certain permits based on an assessment of a facility’s contribution to environmental and public health stressors in the state’s overburdened communities.
New Jersey DEP launched a public process to develop the EJ rules immediately upon the law’s enactment last September and expects to propose regulations this year for formal public comment. The rules could be adopted as early as Spring 2022.
While the rulemaking process is underway, the new order directs the agency to use its existing legal authority to further the law’s intent to ensure meaningful public engagement and reduce environmental stressors in overburdened communities. The order takes effect immediately and applies to all permit applications for facilities in overburdened communities that have open or unexpired comment periods.
Specifically, the administrative order sets the following requirements:
- Extends public comment periods to at least 60 days;
- Requires a mandatory public hearing in a manner intended to maximize participation of individuals within the overburdened community;
- Encourages individuals to provide information regarding existing conditions or stressors that could result in adverse impacts in the event of a permit approval;
- Requires the applicant to respond to and address the concerns raised by individuals in the overburdened community and to conduct any additional analysis that the DEP deems necessary for its review;
- Strongly encourages each applicant to engage directly with individuals in the overburdened community in advance of, and in addition to, formal public comment; and
- Directs the DEP to apply such special conditions to permits as may be necessary to avoid or minimize environmental or public health stressors.
For more details, see the DEP press release.