Gov. Murphy Signs Environmental Justice Legislation to ‘Protect Overburdened Communities’

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Assignment Editor

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — Last week, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that will require New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the public health and environmental consequences of certain facilities in overburdened communities.

The department will be required to deny permits for new facilities that will have “disproportionately negative impacts” on overburdened communities. Communities in which more than 35% of households qualify as low-income per the US Census and more than 40% are minority or have limited English proficiency qualify as overburdened, according to the new legislation. Approximately 310 New Jersey towns, cities, and boroughs with a total population of more than 4,489,000 people have overburdened communities within their municipalities.

This legislation makes New Jersey the first state to require permit denials if environmental analysis finds that a new facility will have negative consequences on an overburdened community.

“Today, we are sending a clear message that we will longer allow Black and Brown communities in our state to be dumping grounds, where access to clean air and clean water are overlooked,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release. “This action is a historic step to ensure that true community input and collaboration will factor into decisions that have a cumulative impact for years to come. I’m incredibly proud that New Jersey is now home to the strongest environmental justice law in the nation.”

As part of this new legislation, the Department of Environmental Protection will be required to evaluate the consequences on both environmental and public health caused by the following facilities:

  • 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
  • Medical waste incinerators, except those attendant to hospitals and universities

Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to news@followsouthjersey.com with “NEWS” in the subject line.