Home > Uncategorized > 18 Years After Scathing Criticism By Federal Judge For Ignoring “Environmental InJustice”, NOTHING HAS CHANGED AT NJ DEP

18 Years After Scathing Criticism By Federal Judge For Ignoring “Environmental InJustice”, NOTHING HAS CHANGED AT NJ DEP

Climate Crisis Exacerbates Environmental Injustice


Over 18 years ago, US District Court Judge Orlofsky wrote in South Camden Citizens v. NJ Dept. of Environ., 145 F. Supp. 2d 446 (D.N.J. 2001) (emphases mine):

As described in greater detail in this Court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law set forth below, the NJDEP granted the necessary air permits to SLC to allow its proposed facility to begin operations. In doing so, the NJDEP considered only whether the facility’s emissions would exceed technical emissions standards for specific pollutants, especially dust. Indeed, much of what this case is about is what the NJDEP failed to consider. It did not consider the level of ozone generated by the truck traffic to and from the SLC facility, notwithstanding the fact that the Waterfront South community is not currently in compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (“NAAQS”) established by the EPA for ozone levels, nor did it consider the presence of many other pollutants in Waterfront South. It did not consider the pre-existing poor health of the residents of Waterfront South, nor did it consider the cumulative environmental burden already borne by this impoverished community. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the NJDEP failed to consider the racial and ethnic composition of the population of Waterfront South.

BOOM! Hit the link above and Read the whole opinion. Orlofsky goes into great detail to document the specific failures of DEP review and show how the actual DEP regulatory review contradicts DEP rhetoric and spin. A must read.

Unfortunately, Orlofky’s legal decision was later reversed on legal grounds by the Third Circuit Court’s holding, in South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 274 F.3d 771 (3d Cir. 2001)

But Orlofsky’s factual findings and accurate criticism of basic and egregious failures by the NJ DEP were never challenged and remain valid.

[Of course, the Murphy DEP’s History of the EJ Program says NOTHING about all this embarrassing reality, but it does throw former DEP Commissioner Campbell under the bus under an absurd claim of lack of “user-friendly” regulation

Because the formula to determine environmental injustice was not user- friendly and it would require another rule to fix it, Commissioner Campbell withdrew the rule in May 2002 and began work on a new EJ Initiative, part of which resulted in the 2004 Environmental Justice Executive Order No. 96.]

Sadly, as most recently illustrated by the NJ DEP’s air permit renewal for the Newark garbage incinerator, despite Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #23 on “environmental justice”, NOTHING HAS CHANGED – Orlofsky’s criticisms remain valid.

DEP still fails to consider what DEP failed to consider back in 2001 in Camden, NJ.

How is this tolerated?

Why is it not reported by media?

Why aren’t the “green”, climate and environmental justice groups even making these arguments?

Stay tuned as we try to find answers and report back soon.

[UPDATE: Proposed legislation (S1700[1R]) to direct DEP to designate EJ communities and specifically authorize DEP to deny permits for NEW or expanding facilities based on EJ and cumulative impacts  – even though it was gutted by amendments and even though DEP already has adequate legislative authority to act and even though the bill grandfathers all the unjust existing pollution – is going nowhere, blocked in Senate by Senate President Sweeney and languishing in the Senate appropriations Committee. DOA

[For example, over 15 years ago, Gov. McGreevy issued Executive Order #96 that, among other things, established a petition process to designate EJ communities:

Any community may file a petition with the Task Force that asserts that residents and workers in the community are subject to disproportionate adverse exposure to environmental health risks, or disproportionate adverse effects resulting from the implementation of laws affecting public health or the environment. …

In consultation with the Environmental Justice Advisory Council, the Task Force shall identify a set of communities from the petitions filed, based on a selection criteria developed by the Task Force, including consideration of state agency resource constraints;

[Update 2 –  A Trenton source tells me that Sweeney supported the original version and that the amendments that gutted the bill came from Gov. Murphy’s Office (with a perceived CV threat).  Someone should ask Sweeney. If we had a functioning press corps, someone would. Don’t hold your breath on that one.]

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