The Clean Water Blog

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Let's Take a Breath and Make Sure NJ's Environmental Justice Law Does What is Intended

We will all breathe easier once New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law is implemented. Signed by Governor Murphy two years ago, the law gives the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) the power to deny permits to polluting industries that would further harm overburdened communities all across the state. It has the potential to be one of the strongest policies of this type in the nation.

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is currently in a public comment period on the Environmental Justice Law Rule Proposal. Before the agency drafts the rules (aka rulemaking) to carry out the law, the public is given the opportunity to weigh in. The public comment period ends on September 4 and we urge all of our members to support the legislation, and also point out shortcomings or possible loopholes. Clean Water Action has background information and talking points that are helpful in drafting commentary. That information can be found in our  press release

But, it’s sometimes very effective to speak from personal experience and from the heart.

I wrote on behalf of myself and my family. We are from Brick, NJ and live and work from Ocean, Camden, and Essex counties. We wholeheartedly support the EJ legislation and want the NJDEP’s rulemaking to be devoid of loopholes that would negatively impact EJ communities.

My family knows firsthand how dirty air can harm an individual. My sister lives in Essex County and is afflicted with COPD. We can’t even take her out to a local diner for a grilled cheese without first making sure she’s done her inhaler and then setting her up with a portable oxygen tank. The air can be quite a challenge in Camden county, even making the family cat sick with asthma requiring middle of the night emergency vet visits, steroids, and an inhaler. My brother left a good job in Port Redding worried that the bad air would sicken his children.

How did we get to this low point? We got here through decades of dirty industries’ neglect of the human and environmental toll for profit, and regulators allowing that to happen.

Dirty industries sometimes like to dangle the promise of jobs as a path toward regulatory approval. EJ communities should not have to choose between a healthy environment and jobs. That is environmental racism and extortion. Neither should dirty industries, which can hurt the economy by driving up health care costs and requiring costly remediation to correct the environmental harm done, be encouraged in EJ communities.

When one suffers, we all suffer. I do look forward to the day when we can take my sister outdoors and have her breathe in a lungful of clean air. And I can assure you it’s a sad and difficult task to administer an inhaler to a cat.

I do believe we can put policies in place that will ensure a breath of fresh air for all. That can happen if the EJ rulemaking is written adequately, fairly, and with true justice as its goal.

TAKE ACTION

The EJ Rule proposal comment period is now open. Interested parties can submit comments here until September 4, 2022. For more information about the EJ Law and to access previous stakeholder meeting recordings, visit the EJ Law, Rules and Policy page. The Environmental Justice Rulemaking Briefing Presentation provides a synopsis of the EJ Law and rulemaking process.