While New Jersey prepares for a new governor, important questions about the state’s environment, health, and equity remain unanswered.
New Jersey was once a leader in environmental protection, passing innovative policies like pollution prevention and stringent air-quality standards. Today it ranks fifth among states with the largest “pollution gaps,” that is, states having “racial inequities that exist when it comes to exposure to pollution from car exhaust and power plants,” according to Sydney Brownstone, “The 10 Most Polluted States for People of Color,” (Co.EXIST, April 16, 2014).
In 2012, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) stated, “Improving air pollution in these affected areas is one of the NJDEP’s greatest challenges.” While some areas of New Jersey have experienced improvements in overall environmental quality, others have languished and continue to suffer from some of the highest concentrations of pollution and environmental health risks in the nation. These places tend to be in low income or communities of color, like the cities and towns in the urban corridor running from Paterson and Newark down to Camden.