The Department of Environmental Protection’s environmental equity policy and recent proposed regulations indicate that the DEP is attempting to do what it believes it can in accordance with existing statutory powers. What is needed, however, is for the Legislature to specifically address the subject.

Uncertainty concerning how receptive the federal courts would be to environmental justice claims ended on Dec. 17, 2001, with the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Dep’t of Envtl. Protection, 274 F.3d 771 (3d Cir. 2001). The ruling, unless modified by the U.S. Supreme Court, will present a serious obstacle to private parties alleging discriminatory siting, operation or abandonment of polluting facilities in, or disproportionately affecting, minority communities.

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