Since coming into office in 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy has staked a lot on his clean-energy agenda. His administration has also promised to address environmental justice issues, those that disproportionately harm some of the most vulnerable populations in the state. On Monday, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Shawn LaTourette, the Department of Environmental Protection’s acting commissioner, announced nine new environmental enforcement actions across the state. These included seven lawsuits to address pollution in “overburdened communities” — Camden, Trenton, Kearny, Secaucus, Edison, Bridgeton and Egg Harbor City. The complaints run the gamut of environmental abuses: illegal dumping, release of chemical and other contaminants into stormwater drains; contamination of soil and groundwater by gasoline and other toxic chemicals.
The contaminants at issue in these latest lawsuits “are linked to serious health problems including respiratory distress and certain lung illnesses, cancer, neurological disorders, kidney disease, liver disease and eye damage,” according to a press release from the attorney general’s office, which noted that all nine complaints seek a variety of remedies, “including clean-up of the contaminated properties, compliance with DEP Administrative Orders and other outstanding DEP requirements, payment of civil penalties, and reimbursement to the State for the cost of site investigation, remediation, monitoring and other related work.”
Including those lawsuits, the Attorney General Grewal and the DEP have filed 39 environmental justice cases since 2018, bringing $20 million in judgments so far.