New Jersey Enacts Landmark Environmental Justice Law

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation on Sept. 18, which directs the state to deny permits if an environmental justice analysis finds that a new facility will have a disproportionate impact on overburdened communities.

The law marks the toughest measure in the nation to safeguard overburdened communities from pollution. Under the bill, “overburdened” applies to a community comprising 35 percent low-income households, or 40 percent minority households, or 40 percent households with limited English proficiency. About 310 municipalities have overburdened communities within their municipalities.

The first-of-its-kind legislation requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to assess the environmental and health impacts of certain facilities on these communities when reviewing permit applications.

The law seeks to curb pollution from sources such as gas-fired and cogeneration facilities, incinerators, sludge processing facilities, sewage treatment plants, recycling facilities, scrap metal facilities, landfills, and certain medical waste incinerators.