The issue of environmental justice and how government might achieve it is a complicated one, but New Jersey has a program already in place that has been effective in solving many local issues that have plagued poorer communities.
NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor raised this point in testifying against S-232, which would allow the state to deny permits to companies building new or expanding existing facilities. The bill released today by the Senate Energy and Environment Committee.
Implementing the provisions of S-232 would fall largely on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). As Cantor pointed out, however, DEP already has a successful program called the “Community Collaborative Initiative” (CCI).
“The premise of the program is to dedicate DEP resources, both personnel and monetary, to solve on-the-ground environmental issues that are impacting communities,” Cantor said. “Communities are identified, and resources are then deployed.”
Examples of CCI’s success include the elimination of sewerage flooding the streets in Camden, the restoration of the Harrison landfill in Camden, the “daylighting” of a stream in Trenton, and the cleanup of a brownfield near a Perth Amboy school, allowing that brownfield to be turned into a waterfront park.
“We believe CCI is a better approach and it can use more resources,” Cantor told the committee in his testimony.
On the legislation, NJBIA expressed concerns about the definition of an “overburdened community,” the requirement to look at cumulative impacts, and the ability to deny a permit based on a comparative risk basis.