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Singleton, Weinberg Bill to Authorize the DEP to Designate ‘Burdened Communities’ Clears Committee

Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, which would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to designate an area within a municipality as a “burdened community,” cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

“We can no longer ignore that some of the decisions that were made with regards to the concentration of certain industries in lower socioeconomic communities have ignored the principles of fairness and inclusion in the decision-making process, leading to documented adverse health effects for those residents,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “We must address the most egregious imbalances of this process that result in those having more financial resources and louder political voices crowding out those who are bereft of both.”

“Poor and minority populations are more likely to be affected by pollution in urban areas than wealthier populations,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “To fix the problem of targeting poor and minority populations for urban pollution, we need to first figure out which communities have been the most impacted.”

There are several criteria the DEP would use in assessing what qualifies as a “burden community”. These would include at least half of the households in the area qualifying as low-income households and at least one-half of the residents are minority groups enjoying special protection under the civil rights provision of the Constitution of the United States and federal Voting Rights Act.

A “burdened community” is an area within a municipality ranked in the bottom 33% of census tracts in New Jersey for median household income based on data provided by the Secretary of State’s office.

The bill, S-232, was released from committee by a vote of 3-0.