Singleton, Weinberg Bill to Authorize the DEP to Designate ‘Burdened Communities’ Passes 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,” passed the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

“The fight for environmental justice has been a well-known and well-received rallying cry over the years. Yet, any progress that has been made still falls woefully short in addressing this concern, especially in lower socioeconomic, minority, and urban communities,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington).

“This legislation seeks to address the most egregious imbalances and risks that result from those with more financial resources and louder political voices crowding out those who are bereft of both. It is a longstanding attempt to finally add some definition and practical action to the fight for environmental justice in our state,” continued Senator Singleton.

“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.”

The criteria the DEP would use in assessing whether or not an area qualifies as a “burden community” are the following: at least one-half of the households in the area qualify as low-income households; and at least one-half of the residents are minority group 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-1700, was released from committee by a vote of 5-0, and next heads to the Senate Budget Committee for further consideration.