James D. Snook, BCONE Board Member, summarizes it for you.
- Olivia Glenn: NJDEP Deputy Commissioner, Environmental Justice and Equity
- Kim Gaddy: Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action
- Catherine M. Ward: Co-Chair, Environmental, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP
NJSWEP, LSRPA, and BCONE presented a webinar and virtual panel discussion attended by over 60 people. It included expert insights from three noteworthy women in environmental justice. NJDEP’s Olivia Glenn began the webinar with insights into the department’s regulatory changes that will impact different aspects of environmental justice. The S232 Environmental Justice Law (EJ Law) adopted by New Jersey in June 2020 requires NJDEP to evaluate environmental and public health stressors of certain facilities on overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications. The EJ Law is the nation’s strongest measure to protect overburdened communities from pollutants; it may become a template for environmental justice laws throughout the USA.
Olivia Glenn explained that New Jersey’s 2020 Global Warming Response Act was written to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from their 2006 levels by 2050. A triple bottom line is the goal, where protection of vulnerable communities against the effects of climate change will reach toward one aspect of environmental justice.
Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action explained how she created an organization in Newark’s South Ward to establish an approach against environmental degradation. She provided insights into how to engage and support the residents as active participants. She explained how the EJ Law should help to provide more equal protection for vulnerable residents from hazards through greater transparency by providing an opportunity to deny permit that do not consider environmental justice.
Catherine Ward provided an in-depth evaluation of the EJ Law in regards to its potential affect on the regulated community. She explained the impact of zoning in a strong home rule state, which NJ is. Industry location in compliance with local zoning and many communities’ discouragement of affordable housing through their zoning ordinances created many of the problems that the EJ law has to tackle. How does the state-wide EJ law work with the framework of each municipality’s current zoning regulations? There will some initial unpredictability of applying the minimum standards of the law to different situations. The regulated community and some other stakeholders prefer as much predictability as possible. Catherine explained that sustainability is a guiding principle, in efforts to provide a clear goal for application of the EJ Law. Sustainability can be applied by progressive companies that can apply economic vitality with healthy communities and a resilient environment.