Addressing human health and environmental issues for overburdened communities
In 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) to address the human health and environmental issues disproportionately affecting marginalized communities. Since then, the organization has focused on providing guidelines for rulemaking, developing policies, and working directly with local and state governments to advance environmental justice.
The EPA defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. The work toward this goal will continue until everyone enjoys:
- The same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards
- Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment where they can live, learn, and work
Now, more than 30 years after the founding of OEJ, states have begun rolling out their own sets of environmental justice rules and regulations. Langan is closely tracking changes in environmental justice standards across the United States, staying abreast of any updates that may affect clients.
One state that is currently revising its environmental justice rules and regulations is New Jersey. The state has started implementing legislation that will require proposed projects located in overburdened communities that fall into certain permitting categories to prepare an Environmental Justice Impact Statement (EJIS). This legislation will apply to facilities that create large amounts of air pollution (e.g., Title V facilities), resource recovery facilities or incinerators, recycling facilities, and landfills.
In other words, if a project in New Jersey is subject to environmental justice requirements, the project team will need to prepare an EJIS, which will trigger significant public involvement and participation. Additionally, the potential permit timeline may be affected. Any hold-ups related to the EJIS will result in delays associated with other permit applications, as they will not be able to be sent to the appropriate division of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection until the process is completed and approved.
The precise timeline for the EJIS process is unknown, as the rule is currently in draft form. However, if the process is triggered, it will likely delay permitting timelines significantly. As a result, identifying whether your project may trigger environmental justice requirements should be considered as early on in the planning as possible.
Regardless of the potential requirements, Langan’s multidisciplinary team is prepared to evaluate environmental justice applicability by considering all aspects of a project, including stormwater, air quality, flood risk, traffic, demographics, and beyond.
Based in our New York City office, Stephanie Friel is an environmental project engineer with diversified environmental compliance and permitting experience.