New Jersey’s New Environmental Justice Law Requires Evaluation of Impacts to Overburdened Communities for Some Permits

October 14, 2020

On September 18, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed environmental justice Senate Bill S232 into law. The law requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to evaluate environmental and public health stressors of certain facilities on the state’s overburdened communities and only grant or renew permits for certain facilities after determining that disproportional and/or cumulative impacts to these communities do not occur as a result of the new or revised permit.

The types of facilities affected include:

  • Major sources of air pollution (e.g., gas-fired power plants and cogeneration facilities);
  • Resource recovery facilities or incinerators;
  • Sludge processing facilities, combustors, or incinerators;
  • Sewage treatment plants with a capacity of more than 50 million gallons per day;
  • Transfer stations and solid waste facilities;
  • Recycling facilities that receive at least 100 tons of recyclable material per day;
  • Scrap metal facilities;
  • Landfills; and
  • Medical waste incinerators.

The law defines an overburdened community as one where:

  • 35% of the households qualify as low-income according to the U.S. Census;
  • 40% of households are minority according to the U.S. Census; or
  • 40% of households have limited English language proficiency according to the U.S. Census.

Within 120 days of the September 18 effective date, the NJDEP is required to publish a list of overburdened communities in the state. There are approximately 310 municipalities with overburdened communities within their municipalities.

Requirements for Permit Applications and Renewals

For affected facilities located in the same census tracts as overburdened communities, the law requires the following.

  • An Environmental Justice Impact Statement, including an evaluation of potential unavoidable environmental and public health stressors (permitted activity) by the facility, as well as any existing environmental and public health stressors already borne by the overburdened community as a result of existing conditions within the entire community.
  • A public hearing in the overburdened community, followed by providing advisory resources to the community, accepting oral and written comments from interested parties, and submitting a transcript of the public hearing to the NJDEP. The NJDEP shall use the testimony and comments to evaluate the issuance of, or conditions to, the permit, as necessary to avoid or reduce the adverse environmental or public health stressors.
  • An additional fee (the amount will be determined during the NJDEP’s rulemaking), which will support the expanded environmental justice review.

The NJDEP is conducting the initial environmental justice rulemaking public information session via webinar on October 22, 2020, at 6 p.m. Register here by October 20.

If you have other questions related to this legislation, please contact Steve Maxwell of CEC Philadelphia at smaxwell@cecinc.com or 888-267-7891.

About the Author


Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell, LSRP, P.G., is a Senior Project Manager in CEC's Environmental Engineering and Sciences Practice at our Philadelphia office. His areas of expertise are in environmental forensics, sediment assessment, tidal marsh hydrodynamics, sediment ecological risk assessment, site assessment, and site remediation.

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