Harlem’s WE-ACT Celebrating New Jersey’s Cumulative Impacts Law

WE ACT is celebrating the signing of NJ S232 into law, limiting new pollution in New Jersey environmental justice communities.

Low-income communities and communities of color historically bear disproportionate amounts of pollution, and studies have shown that the cumulative impact of these multiple sources of pollution can lead to adverse health conditions.

While several states, including New York, require cumulative impacts to be considered in the permitting process, the New Jersey legislation – the result of a 12-year fight led by the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, Ironbound Community Corporation, and Clean Water Action – requires the State’s Department of Environmental Protection to deny permits for any new major project deemed to cause a cumulative environmental or health burden higher than that borne by other communities in the county or state.



“This is the moment of reckoning for racial and environmental justice in our country that makes it imperative to act.”

“Passing this bill is a critical step towards ensuring that all residents of New Jersey, regardless of their zip code and color of their skin, have the right to good health, clean air, and safe waters,” said Melissa Miles, Executive Director of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. “This is the moment of reckoning for racial and environmental justice in our country that makes it imperative to act.”

“This bill gives the state the power to ‘just say no more’ pollution in my neighborhood. My children can look forward to breathing cleaner air as they recreate in Weequahic Park. Thanks to Senator Singleton, Assemblyman McKeon, and Governor Murphy, New Jersey is that much closer to having the strongest EJ law in the nation and demonstrating that Black Lives Matter,” said Newark resident Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action.

“Environmental justice (EJ) communities like mine have suffered far too long and now after 10 years, our voices have been heard and our communities will receive the right environmental protection for our complexion.”

“S232 gives us hope. Hope that our pleas for the right to breathe will be heard next time we face off with polluters who have been targeting Black and brown neighborhoods for decades. We can’t end environmental racism with one bill but we must take this historical first step,”

“S232 gives us hope. Hope that our pleas for the right to breathe will be heard next time we face off with polluters who have been targeting Black and brown neighborhoods for decades. We can’t end environmental racism with one bill but we must take this historical first step,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director, Organizing and Advocacy, Ironbound Community Corp. “Newark has a fighting chance to breathe easier thanks to this bill.”

“This is a historic bill for a historic moment in our country. This EJ bill will be a beacon for communities throughout New Jersey and around the country suffering from the legacy of environmental racism and pollution,” said Ana Isabel Baptista, PhD, Ironbound Community Corporation and Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.

“The cumulative impacts policy embodied in this legislation will provide a foundation from which New Jersey can address environmental justice. We should combine this legislation with other policies in order to fully achieve environmental justice in our state,” said Nicky Sheats, Esq., Ph.D., a Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. “We will need cumulative policies to address cumulative impacts and environmental justice in New Jersey in a comprehensive manner. Congratulations to everyone who worked on this legislation and to everyone who voted for it!”

“This is a massive win for the people of New Jersey,” explained Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “It’s even more important now that the Trump administration is trying to remove cumulative impacts from being one of the factors considered under the National Environmental Policy Act. And now that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed the bill into law, it will give New Jersey communities, particularly those sacrifice zones which have been subjected to multiple sources of pollution for generations, the kind of protection they deserve – the kind of protection that all communities deserve.”

“We are working to strengthen our legislation here in New York State, to ensure that cumulative impacts are grounds for denial in the permitting process as opposed to merely a consideration,”

“We are working to strengthen our legislation here in New York State, to ensure that cumulative impacts are grounds for denial in the permitting process as opposed to merely a consideration,” added Shepard. “And we’re encouraging other environmental justice groups – including those in the two in which we have a leadership role, the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum and National Black Environmental Justice Network, the former of which the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance belongs to – to pursue such measures in their states. The past few years have taught us that we cannot rely on the federal government to protect our communities, so we must pursue legislation at the local level – where our voices often have a greater impact.”

Photo credit; Nicky Sheats and Melissa Miles.

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