Home > Uncategorized > NJ Spotlight Doubles Down On False Coverage Of Environmental Justice Legislation

NJ Spotlight Doubles Down On False Coverage Of Environmental Justice Legislation

Bill Would NOT Give EJ Communities ANY Power

Local approval provision of original bill was deleted

I previously wrote about the sham going on with the so called “environmental justice” bill by exposing the fact that the bill would not do anything to reduce the current pollution that is now adversely effecting the health of people who live in environmental justice communities. The “environmental justice” and “cumulative impact” reviews would apply only to future “new or expanded” pollution sources, not the sources of current pollution that is causing harm to the mostly poor and black & brown people who live in overburdened communities.

[Update: the bill was amended to provide authority to DEP to impose conditions on permit renewals of some existing facilities that cause current pollution burdens. However, there are no “nexus” requirements to assure that the conditions DEP might impose actually reduce the pollution, eliminate the disproportionate EJ burden, or  protect public health. And this bill still exempts small sources of pollution and has numerous loopholes and waivers that render it useless and ineffective. ~~~ end update]

In that post, I also noted that the provision that would give EJ communities real power – effectively a veto over any DEP permit approval – was deleted from the original introduced version of the bill (see Section 3.c.) by a Senate Committee Substitute bill (S232 [SCS]). As a result, EJ communities have no real power, and can only make comments and requests to DEP.

The original bill was gutted completely.

I therefore questioned why the so called “EJ activists” supported the bill and praised the Governor given these facts.

Since then, NJ Spotlight has gone all in and sponsored a “virtual roundtable” on the bill for today (6/30/20) at 4 pm on zoom. The panelists include the so called EJ activists that supported the bill, plus a representative of corporate giant PSE&G.

Not to be outdone by Gov. Murphy, NJ Senator Cory Booker jumped into the debate and will “offer opening remarks”. Booker, as a former Mayor of Newark, has political liabilities on EJ issues and a relationship with at least one panelist.

Curiously, NJ Spotlight has expanded the scope of their “roundtable” to include a second bill:

(S-2484) creates within the BPU the Office of Clean Energy Equity and seeks to ensure those living in low- and moderate-income communities share in the benefit of ratepayers’ investment in the state’s clean energy future.

This expansion in scope completely shifts the focus away from the real EJ pollution bill, no doubt to avoid a discussion of the fact that the bill is a sham.

Worse, today Spotlight wrote a set up story on the real EJ bill, and they doubled down on the false and misleading reporting on it.

Specifically, Spotlight’s story opens with this factually false statement:

For the first time, New Jersey communities could be given a powerful new tool to block projects that would add to their pollution burden under a bill approved by the Senate Monday.

That claim is not only false, it is the opposite of what the bill actually does. This is a lie and journalistic malpractice.

The bill does not give “New Jersey communities … a powerful new tool to block projects”.

As I wrote, the Senate substitute bill  stripped the provision that would have given EJ communities real power to block projects. (see Section 3.c. of the original version linked above – readers can also confirm this fact by reviewing last session’s version of the bill, S1700, section 3.c., which included the local veto. You can further confirm that by reading the bracketed (deleted) local veto provision in Section 3.c. the Senate revised bill, see S1700[1R]. The bill was gutted last session, as I wrote at the time.)

This is not a question of interpretation – it is a fact.

The NJ Spotlight story also misleads readers about the effects of the bill, given that it would only apply to the pollution from “new or expanded” projects, not current pollution.

That flaw is fatal and should be directly discussed.

Instead, Spotlight uses the word “further pollution” in the headline of the story. That insulates them from criticism on the “existing” versus future pollution flaw I’ve highlighted.

Worse, they use a so called EJ activist to reveal that fatal flaw:

“In many ways, this has been the ‘holy grail’ of the environmental-justice movement,’’ said Nicky Sheats, of the New Jersey Environmental Alliance. “We get so frustrated when they put one more polluting facility in an environmental-justice community when they already have so many. At some point, they have to say no.’

Do you see how they did that?

Tom Johnson of NJ Spotlight tucked an allusion to a fatal flaw at the tail end of an over the top praiseworthy quote of a black EJ activist (“holy grail”).

That is some deeply cynical shit.

So is the false reporting about giving EJ communities a “powerful new tool” when their power was actually stripped from the bill. DEP maintains exclusive authority, the local role is purely advisory – lipstick on a pig.

I think it is journalistic malpractice that borders on evil, because Tom Johnson knew exactly what he was doing.

I feel really bad for Nicky Sheats, who got used this way.

[End Note: Shame on Ray Cantor who, in an Orwellian move, used the term “red-lining” to criticize environmental justice legislation. He surely must know that historically, the black community was “red-lined” out of cities and into ghetto’s across the country (and on NJ Spotlight for printing that remark in a stenographic mode, with no criticism or context).

Ray Cantor, a vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said his organization is sympathetic and understanding of the issues in communities that suffer environmental impact from new projects.

As drafted, the bill would essentially redline any new manufacturing facility or expansion in large parts of New Jersey, Cantor said. “There’s a better way to address this problem,’’ he added.

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