NEW JERSEY SELECTED BY EPA TO DEVELOP MODEL PROGRAM
FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today was
awarded a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) to implement a model program promoting "environmental equity" in
minority and urban areas.
New Jersey is one of five states 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 equity 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 Fox. "We are
looking forward to working with DEP 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 Christie 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 poor and urban areas where air pollution, water pollution
or soil contamination may be disproportionately high," said DEP
Commissioner Bob Shinn. "Our intent is to be proactive, to build
partnerships, examine concerns and address problems before they
escalate to crisis proportions."
DEP plans to integrate environmental equity strategies into its
Performance Partnership Agreement with EPA to make this program an
effective tool for needed environmental improvements.
EPA Administrator Carol 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
Commissioner Shinn last month signed an administrative order
establishing a permanent advisory council on environmental equity. The
group will advise DEP as it implements its model program, based on
recommendations from a 45-member task force. The task force will
include representatives from business, environmental, minority and
grassroots organizations and local government officials.
Commissioner Shinn has designated Rita Thornton as project
manager/grant administrator. DEP initiated outreach activities,
contacting local organizations and city officials statewide, in
February. The 45-member task force held its first meeting in May.
DEP's leadership in environmental equity was recognized this year at a
meeting of the Environmental Council of States, a national
organization of top-level state environmental officials. DEP
Commissioner Shinn serves on an EPA advisory committee charged with
developing a national environmental justice policy. At a recent
meeting the advisory committee endorsed New Jersey's pilot program on
environmental equity as a model for other states.
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.