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Will The Murphy Administration Support Real Environmental Justice Legislation?

Senate bill would put teeth in law, provide authority to DEP to deny permits

On Thursday January 24, 2019, the Senate Environment Committee will hear important legislation, S1700, that would put real teeth in environmental laws by providing authority to DEP to designate overburdened environmental justice communities, consider cumulative impacts, and deny permits.

Here is the operative language from Section 3.b.:

the department may deny a permit application in a burdened community upon a finding that the approval of the permit would, together with the cumulative adverse health and environmental impacts posed by the  existing conditions, including conditions resulting from permitted activities, in the burdened community, constitute an unreasonable risk to the health of the residents of the burdened community and to the environment in the community.

The bill would also authorize the local community to kill the permit.

Here is the language from Section 3.c.:

The department shall not approve a permit application for a project in a burdened community unless the governing body of the municipality in which the burdened community is located adopts an ordinance approving the project.

The bill is certain to face strong opposition from business and industry and many legislators, including pro-business corporate Democrats.

Gov. Murphy has touted his commitment to environmental justice.Will he walk the walk?

Will Gov. Murphy send DEP Commissioner McCabe over to the Senate to strongly support this bill on behalf of himself and his entire administration?

Will Gov. Murphy publicly challenge Democratic lawmakers to pass the bill and promise to sign it?

Will the “green” community get aggressively out in support of this bill, make it a priority, and hold the Gov. and DEP accountable?

We’ll be watching.

[End note – the bill is not perfect and I would prefer to see more specific technical standards and criteria, especially for DEP permit denial. More to follow, this is just a set up piece.]

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