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NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor will testify today that a new environmental justice rule proposed by the state Department of Environmental Protection runs the risk of negatively impacting residents economically in communities designated as overburdened.

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

To implement that landmark 2020 law, the DEP has published its 153-page draft EJ rule proposal. Today marks the first of four public hearings prior to the closing of the official public comment period on Sept. 4.

“The proposal misses the mark by only focusing on the potential or presumed negative impacts, as it doesn’t measure actual emissions, but only sources,” Cantor said. “The rule does not, at all, account for the jobs and positive economic impacts these facilities have in these communities.

“We are not saying facilities should be built in these communities without doing more. We are saying that when DEP reviews these facilities, which meet the highest environmental standards and/or are willing to do more to improve conditions in communities they are located, it should consider the economic benefits as well as any perceived negative impacts.”

Cantor notes that the EJ law uses income level as one of three criteria to determine if a community is overburdened – yet good jobs can go away if an established facility moves or closes, or new facilities are unable to get DEP permitting and provide jobs in those areas.

“The proposed rule specifically recognizes unemployment as a stressor in a community,” Cantor said. “In fact, it recognizes that employment brings healthcare and other benefits that are essential to one’s health, and that unemployment has numerous negative health consequences, both physical and mental.

“But by not looking at job creation, and only looking at one side of the ledger page, the Department is failing to consider a solution to the problem.

“Under this rule, it is completely possible that a potential new facility which provides good-paying jobs and other benefits for the community and has the support of local officials will be denied DEP permits because of the number stressors on paper, versus actual stressors. We urge that DEP recognize and address all the impacts of this rule before finalizing it,” Cantor said.