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NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor testified on Wednesday night that a new environmental justice rule proposed by the state Department of Environmental Protection should be more flexible and less proscriptive for the betterment of communities deemed as overburdened.

The EJ hearing, held in Camden, was the second of four public hearings prior to the closing of the official public comment period on Sept. 4.

New Jersey is the only state in the nation to require mandatory permit denials if an environmental justice (EJ) analysis determines a new facility will have a disproportionately negative impact on overburdened communities. The DEP has published a 153-page draft EJ rule proposal to implement the landmark 2020 law.

“The rules should center on whether a new, expanded, or renewed facility will improve conditions in the community or not,” Cantor testified. “If the facility’s permit will result in a net environmental benefit, or lowering of the total stressors in the community, we believe it should be approved.

The rules should focus on community education and engagement and what ultimately makes the community a better and safer place to live and work.”

Under the new DEP guidelines, two-thirds of the state may be determined as overburdened.

On Monday, when the DEP hosted the first of four hearings on the rule, Cantor explained that it runs the risk of negatively impacting residents economically in communities designated as overburdened.

“As currently drafted, this rule is too much form over substance, too much proscription over results,” Cantor said. “If adopted as currently proposed, the only result we can ensure is that businesses and jobs will leave areas where they are needed the most and the communities we are seeking to protect will be worse off than they are today.”