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New Jersey Selected By EPA To Develop Model Program For Environmental Justice

Release Date: 11/05/1998
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(#98150) New York, N.Y. -- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) today was awarded a $100,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to implement a model program promoting "environmental equity" in minority and urban areas.

New Jersey is one of five states in the nation to receive a grant for this purpose. EPA selected New Jersey because it has worked closely in partnership with EPA and local groups throughout the state, and is prepared to implement a proactive environmental justice program.

"EPA's grant will extend President Clinton's initiative to empower neighborhoods that have borne the brunt of environmental pollution to New Jersey," said EPA Region 2 Administrator Jeanne M. Fox. "We are looking forward to working with NJDEP to bring tangible environmental improvements to cities and counties throughout the state." EPA Region 2 will oversee the grant, which will be used to carry out an environmental equity pilot project over the next 12 months.

"New Jersey is proud to be a national leader in improving the quality of life for the residents of our low-income and urban communities by proactively addressing their environmental and health concerns," said New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. "Creating a healthy environment is an important part of our plan to make our cities great places to live, work, and raise a family.

"This grant will enable us to introduce an Environmental Equity Program in potentially 'environmentally burdened' communities in poor and urban areas where air or water pollution, trash plants, or soil contamination may be disproportionately high," said NJDEP Commissioner Robert C. Shinn. "Our intent is to be proactive, to build partnerships, examine concerns, and address problems before they escalate to crisis proportions." NJDEP plans to integrate environmental equity strategies into its performance agreement with EPA, and make this program an effective tool for needed environmental improvements.

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner made environmental justice a priority for the agency when she formed the Office of Environmental Justice in 1993 to integrate this concept into the agency's policies and activities. In 1994, President Clinton signed an executive order, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations," which mandated that all federal agencies develop strategies to focus on the environmental and human health conditions of low-income and minority communities. EPA's strategy includes its environmental justice grants program, which supports greater community involvement in the environmental decision-making process.

Commissioner Shinn last month signed an administrative order establishing a permanent advisory council on environmental equity. The group will advise NJDEP as it implements its model program, based on recommendations from a 45-member task force formed by the department earlier this year. The task force includes representatives from business, environmental, minority and grassroots organizations, and local government officials.

Commissioner Shinn has designated Rita Thornton as project manager/grant administrator. NJDEP initiated outreach activities, contacting local organizations and city officials statewide, in February. The 45-member task force held its first meeting in May.

NJDEP's leadership in environmental justice was recognized this year at a meeting of the Environmental Council of States, an organization of top-level, state environmental officials from throughout the nation.

NJDEP Commissioner Shinn serves on an EPA advisory committee charged with developing a national environmental justice policy.

The award ceremony was held in downtown Perth Amboy, home to two community representatives on the state's task force. Regional Administrator Fox, Commissioner Shinn, Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas, and community representatives attended the event and planted a tree to commemorate the occasion.


For more information contact:
Nina Habib Spencer, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3670 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: habib.nina@epamail.epa.gov