Under New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law, neighborhoods are designated environmental justice communities if they are “overburdened” and have a significant low-income, minority, and/or population with limited proficiency in English.
On Friday, acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette announced seven new environmental enforcement actions, including six to hold polluters accountable for contamination in environmental justice communities. The complaints involve a broad range of alleged environmental abuses by property owners, business operators, and other responsible parties.
Five of the environmental justice lawsuits focus on harmful contamination posing a threat to residents and natural resources in Camden, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, and Somerville. The sixth concerns suspect underground fuel storage tanks located at three gas station properties owned by the same defendant. Two of the service stations are in Camden County towns categorized as overburdened — Runnemede and Voorhees. The seventh lawsuit concerns an abandoned gasoline filling station in Mays Landing, Atlantic County.
“Pollution affects all of us, but it doesn’t affect us equally,” said Bruck. “Lower-income neighborhoods have been disproportionately exposed to environmental harms. And far too often, the communities most affected by these harms have been communities of color.”
Including the lawsuits announced Friday, the attorney general’s office and DEP have filed 45 environmental justice cases since 2018. To date, the lawsuits have yielded nearly $20 million in judgments.