By Kendall M. St.Ange, ENVSP, Project Scientist of TRC Companies
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. St.Ange is an Aspiring Professional from member company TRC. He will be providing a series of updates/blog posts related to Environmental Justice (EJ) in NJ: a hot topic as all of you know. Mr. St.Ange has observed that EJ requirements do not apply to LSRPs and remediation permits but also anticipates that questions and conflicts may arise despite that exemption. He has shared this post to “… add more value to the organization and encourage others to actively participate…”
On September 22, 2021, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner announced the issuance of Administrative Order (AO) No. 2021-25 to implement New Jersey’s Environmental Justice (EJ) Law. This order is effective immediately, and applicants seeking to site new major source facilities, renew major source permits or expand existing facilities with major source permits (e.g., Title V air permits) in overburdened communities are affected. There are more than 4.5 million people that live within 331 municipalities that are overburdened communities in the state of New Jersey.
The Administrative Order requires an enhanced public participation process that requires facilities to:
- Hold a public hearing meeting as determined by the Environmental Justice Law.
- To the extent consistent with applicable law, have a public comment period that is a minimum of sixty (60) days. If there is written request from members of the respective overburdened community, the public comment period may be extended by thirty (30) days to provide information related to “information regarding existing conditions within the overburdened community and potential facility-wide environmental and public health stressors that could result in adverse impacts upon the overburdened community were the regulated activity approved.”
- Respond to and address the concerns raised by individuals from the overburdened community during the public comment period, which may include the need to perform additional analysis as deemed necessary by the NJDEP.
- Solicit concerns from the overburdened community regarding environmental or public health stressors posed by the facility.
- Adhere to special conditions placed on permits approved by the NJDEP. Special conditions may be placed to avoid or minimize public health stressors to the maximum extent allowed by law.
NJDEP has the authority to reopen or further extend the public comment period on a case-by-case basis, as consistent with applicable law and statues.
Title V permit holders in overburdened communities in New Jersey must take steps to address new and multi-faceted environmental justice regulations and should do so in an effective manner to avoid business difficulties and manage public relations issues. This AO has the potential to significantly impact project schedules for new projects or facility expansions. Therefore, identifying EJ-related concerns during the planning phase is critical to a successful project and benefits both the business and the community.
Posted November 22, 2021