Enforce Landmark Environmental Justice Law

Target: Shawn M. LaTourette, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection of New Jersey

Goal: Protect marginalized communities from pollution.

Back on September 18, 2020, environmental justice advocates in New Jersey hailed the passing of a landmark law. Governor Phil Murphy had actively campaigned for the bill even before its passage through the legislature, and A2212/S232 was championed as one of the strongest precedents for climate action in America. However, even after 2 years, the law has not left the table because policymakers are yet to finalize the fine print. Thanks to this exemplary piece of legislation, New Jersey became the first state requiring mandatory permit denials if and when the Department of Environmental Protection determines that a proposed facility imposes a disproportionately negative impact on overburdened communities. Social justice advocates also appreciated the bill as it implied a thoughtful concern for the welfare of marginalized communities.

Bill S232 is based on two key premises. First, it defines the criteria of ‘overburdened’ communities based on income status, English proficiency, and racial identity. Second, it requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to evaluate the possible environmental effects on the pre-defined segregation criteria. The department must ascertain the public health concern of proposed industrial facilities and deny the permit if the review deems them conducive to air pollution and water contamination among other things.

DEP officials stated in June last year that they hope to finalize details for implementing the law by December 31st. DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette had issued an administrative order requiring all existing and future projects in NJ to comply with the ‘spirit and goals’ of S232. He expressed confidence that the order could potentially be a litmus test for the law before it fully comes into effect. Meanwhile, the proposed addition of a gas-fired power plant in Newark still is not required to abide by the law, as it has not yet been put into practice.

There has been enough formal delay already, concealed by lofty promises and legal jargon. Policymakers must not procrastinate in putting the money where the mouth is. Sign this petition to demand immediate enforcement of this landmark environmental justice law in New Jersey.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Commissioner LaTourette,

More than 2 years have been lost in the implementation of law S232 in the State of New Jersey. The landmark bill was signed by Governor Phil Murphy on September 18, 2020. It was hailed as the nation’s first law requiring mandatory permit denials to proposed facilities if an environmental review deems them as harmful to overburdened communities.

Last year, the DEP stated that the fine print of the law could be finalized by December 31st. We also noted that you passed an administrative order requiring all current and future projects to comply with ‘the spirit’ of the law.

However, the DEP has severely fallen short of its promises. The law still awaits effective enforcement. We demand that you, Commissioner LaTourette, speed up the administrative process and fulfill the promise to the people of New Jersey.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Ken Lund


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