Policy Update

New Jersey Bill Would Protect Vulnerable Communities from Pollution



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In June, the New Jersey Senate passed S. 232, which would set a national precedent for protecting low-income communities and nonwhite communities from the disproportionate health impacts of pollution. This bill requires that a new or expanded facility that plans to be located in or near an “overburdened community” prepare an environmental justice impact statement. Facilities include sewage treatment plants, incinerators, landfills, and others that are major sources of air or water pollution. 

S. 232 offers three parameters to define an overburdened community:

  • At least 35% of households being “low income,”
  • At least 40% are members of the tribal community, or
  • At least 40% of households have limited English proficiency. 

The environmental justice impact statement must highlight any unavoidable public health stressors – such as air pollution or impaired water quality – that come with a new or expanded facility. After assessing these impacts, manufacturers must then host a public hearing in the community to receive feedback. The bill gives New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection the authority to withhold a permit if this new facility proves to further burden an already disadvantaged community. 

New Jersey is among at least 20 states to introduce legislation in 2020 to promote environmental justice. Other notable bills introduced this year include Minnesota HF 3753 which has a similar goal to assess community demographics before creating or building out a facility.