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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 11/5/98
98/141
CONTACT: Amy Collings, NJDEP, 609-984-1795
Nina Habib Spencer, USEPA, 212-637-3670

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 decision-making process.

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.

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