Home > Uncategorized > Cracks Begin To Show In The Facade Of NJ Gov. Murphy’s “Landmark Environmental Justice” Legislation

Cracks Begin To Show In The Facade Of NJ Gov. Murphy’s “Landmark Environmental Justice” Legislation

Law Requires Adoption of DEP Regulations, Allows Polluters To Continue Poisoning EJ Communities

Reality Intrudes To Disrupt The Cheerleading

Only the beginning – flaws in EJ law are even worse than that

Finally, someone in the main stream press has written a critical story – after months of cheerleading – about NJ Gov. Murphy’s hyped “environmental justice” legislation.

Politico reported: (emphases mine)

Even though Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law almost six months ago, the state does not have the authority to deny permits for polluting facilities until it finalizes the regulations that specify how to implement the law’s requirements.

Environmental advocates, particularly those in areas with a disproportionate level of air pollution, are worried about what could happen during that window. They point to permit applications for a number of projects slated for environmental justice communities that likely would be subject to the law and might be blocked, but could possibly get approvals in the meantime.

We warned about exactly this – and many other flaws – way back on July 30, 2020, well before bills in both Houses had passed, providing plenty of time for EJ advocates to demand amendments to close this massive loophole. We wrote: on July 20, 2020 I  about serious flaws in the proposed legislation (Senate version) and explained why it would not protect overburdened EJ communities because it:

[1. – 4.]

5. extended the effective date of the law from 180 days after passage until after DEP adopts regulations. […]

By eliminating the 180 day effective date and failure to include a deadline for DEP to adopt regulations, the amended bill would allow polluters to receive DEP permits with NO EJ reviews until DEP adopts regulations, which regulations likely will be tied up for many, many years (at least 5 years) due to the lack of legislative standards in the bill, scientific complexity, business lobbying, and then polluter lawsuits. And 5 years is optimistic – more like 10 might be realistic.

[Wonks can find the final language on DEP regulations in Section 5 – note that a prior 180 deadline in section 4 was deleted by amendment. Activists got snookered, again!]

We not only warned about flaws and loopholes. Wo exposed the sell out. But we also suggested timely amendments with real teeth, see:

We also wrote many times to warn about how the Murphy DEP was ramming out hundreds of permits across the state and in environmental justice communities that allowed millions of pounds of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases, BEFORE the EJ and climate PACT regulations took effect, see:

Sadly, this is another huge “I told you so”.

Ironically, while Poltico got the above DEP regulatory and permit story right (while still ignoring many other serious flaws in the legislation that I’ve written about several times), they got an important issue completely dead wrong. Poltico reported this, in the lede: (emphasis mine)

New Jersey’s landmark environmental justice law gives overburdened communities the power to reject new sources of pollution in their neighborhoods — just not yet.

NJ Spotlight reported this same lie.

As I’ve documented, the legislation was stripped of the provision that would have provided legal authority to a local community to veto a project.

As a result, the law does NOT give EJ communities ANY power, see:

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.

It is simply remarkable that professional journalists continue to get a major issue like that so wrong.

But, because reality has intruded on the myths of this legislation and forced the cheerleaders to tell the truth, perhaps the media might broaden and expand its critical scrutiny of this sham legislation and the sham Murphy DEP.

[End Note: This “Mr. Rogers” “good neighbor” comment by Acting DEP Commissioner LaTourette is embarrassingly misleading and shameful spin:

Shawn LaTourette, the DEP’s acting commissioner, said in an interview that the agency will be “guided by the spirit of the law” until it is formally in place, and will “ask applicants how they can be a good neighbor.”

“If a facility is coming in right now to be permitted and the law is not applicable at this time because of the need for the regulations, that same facility is well served by considering the constraints of how the environmental justice law works upon it because it will be faced with that constraint upon [its permit] renewal,” LaTourette said.

LaTourette is a former corporate lawyer with experience in DEP permitting. He knows he is misleading the public by these remarks.

He knows that once a facility is granted a DEP permit, financed, built, and operating, that a DEP permit renewal, issued 7-10 years later, it is virtually impossible to address the problems. 

Because he knew of the loophole and was in a position to fix it, LaTourette could have assured that the legislation was amended or that the Gov. conditionally vetoed it.

But he didn’t do any of that. He knowing let a badly flawed bill get enacted into law – sat by and duped EJ activists and let the bill be sold as a “landmark” solution – and all that just to protect his former corporate clients.

What a low life.

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