In the past months, the state of New Jersey has passed some landmark laws that have been worth sharing. It started in June when the state mandated that climate change education must be a part of the curriculum in schools. Then, just weeks ago, Gov. Phil Murphy signed off on a new law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain occupational and professional licenses, something that wasn’t possible before and acted as a big obstacle for immigrants from getting well-paying jobs.
This past week, Murphy signed another important piece of legislation that seeks to curb new sources of pollution, including sewage treatment plants, landfills, and incinerators that have affected certain communities more than others. For Ana Baptista, an assistant professor at The New School in New York City, seeing the law enacted was a long-fought dream come true.
“When this bill was finally passed, I had a moment where I just had to shed a tear of disbelief,” said Baptista, who grew up in Newark, where the polluted Ironbound neighborhood is located.
The Ironbound is home to New Jersey’s largest garbage incinerator and more than 100 sites contaminated by dangerous chemicals. As is often the case with residential areas that are near environmental hazards, Ironbound is populated by low-income, immigrant, or minority communities.
The New Jersey Law will require the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to deny permit applications for a new project if it determines it will have a disproportionate impact on a certain community already facing environmental or health stressors. Under the law, the department can also set conditions for the expansion of an existing facility or permit renewal.
New Jersey isn’t the only state to have passed such a bill; California and New York have also passed similar bills in recent years.