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  • Nov 03, 2020Practical Tips: What Developers and Industrial Facility Operators Need to Know About New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Act

    On August 27, 2020, after decades of failed attempts, the New Jersey legislature passed landmark environmental justice legislation that requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) to consider potential environmental and public health effects when granting or renewing certain types of permits in overburdened communities. Governor Murphy signed the bill into law (the “Environmental Justice Act” or “the Act”) on September 18, 2020.

    What Does the Environmental Justice Act Attempt to Achieve, and What Do Developers or Industrial Facility Owners Need to Know in Order to Comply?

    The Act acknowledges and seeks to redress the disproportionate environmental and public health impacts of pollution on minority communities in New Jersey. Low-income communities and communities of color within the state have historically been subject to a disproportionate share of environmental and public health stressors. For example, the state reports that in 2017, approximately 12.9% of Black adults in New Jersey have been diagnosed with asthma. In contrast, only 8.2% of Caucasian adults carry a similar diagnosis.

    In an effort to address these historic conditions, the Act requires that any applicant seeking a new or renewed permit for certain types of operations submit an environmental justice impact statement and hold public hearings to address public health concerns at the local community level.

    Does the Act Act Apply to Your Operations?

    Critically, a “facility” is defined to include: any major source of air pollution (as defined in the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. s 7401 et seq.); any resource recovery facility or incinerator; any sludge processing facility, combustor, or incinerator; any sewage treatment plant with a capacity of more than 50 million gallons per day; any transfer station or other solid waste facility, or recycling facilities accepting at least 100 tons of recyclable material per day; scrap metal facilities; certain types of landfill; or medical waste incinerators.

    Is Your Facility Located in an Overburdened Community?

    An “overburdened” community is any census block group in which: at least 35% of the households qualify as low-income households; at least 40% of the residents identify as minority or are affiliated with a state-recognized tribal community or at least 40% of the households have limited English proficiency.

    Communities will be classified as “overburdened” based on the results of the most recent United States Census. NJDEP will be required to publish and maintain a list of overburdened communities in the state by January 16, 2021, and that list must be updated at least every two years. NJDEP will also be required to notify a municipality if any part of the municipality is designated as an overburdened community.

    So, It Applies to Your Operations and You Are Located in an Overburdened Community. Now What?

    Any time you submit a permit application for a new or expanded facility or an application for the renewal of an existing facility’s major source permit, you must:

    1. Prepare an environmental justice impact statement
    2. Provide the impact statement to NJDEP, the local governing body, and the clerk of the municipality in which the overburdened community is located
    3. Conduct a public hearing in the overburdened community

    The environmental justice impact statement must assess the potential environmental and public health stressors associated with the facility, including any environmental conditions that could cause public health impacts like asthma, cancer, elevated blood lead levels, or cardiovascular disease.

    The permit applicant must publish the notice at least 60 days in advance of the public hearing. The notice must provide the date, time, and location of the hearing, and a brief summary of the environmental justice impact statement. You must also provide an address where community members can submit written comments to the permit applicant. The public hearing must be transcribed, and the transcript must be submitted to NJDEP for consideration along with the permit application.

    Without satisfying the foregoing requirements, NJDEP will not consider your permit application or renewal complete.

    When Does the Environmental Justice Act Take Effect?

    Governor Murphy signed the Act on September 18, 2020. Now, the ball is in NJDEP’s court: they must adopt rules and regulations in order to implement the Act. Those adoptions must be made pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 et seq. Therefore, the heightened requirements of the Act will not take effect until the proposed regulations go through the formal notice and comment process. Developers and industrial facility owners are encouraged to closely monitor the regulatory process in order to keep apprised of when the new requirements will take effect.

    This article has been written by Jessica L. Palmer, a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A. If you have any questions about this or any related environmental matters, please feel free to contact her at jlpalmer@norris-law.com

    This article provides information to our clients and friends about current legal developments of general interest in the area of environmental law. The information contained in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and readers should not act upon such without professional counsel. Reprinted with permission from the November 2020 issue of COMMERCE Magazine

    Posted in: Environmental, Jessica L. Palmer |

  • Jan 02, 2020Norris McLaughlin Promotes Litigators Nick Duston and Jessica Palmer to Members of the Firm

    Norris McLaughlin, P.A., a full-service, mid-sized regional law firm of 130+ attorneys with main offices in Bridgewater, NJ; New York, NY; and Allentown, PA, is pleased to announce the promotion of three associates to Members of the firm. The promotions for Nicholas A. Duston and Jessica L. Palmer are effective January 1, 2020, and follow the firm’s announcement earlier this month that four associates joined the firm, building upon the firm’s unique position to represent middle-market companies, Fortune 500 corporations, and individuals across a number of legal practices.

    John N. Vanarthos, Chairman of the firm, said, “Norris McLaughlin is growing, and we are further strengthening our ability to provide a range of legal services to businesses and families in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. As rising leaders in the firm, Jessica and Nick will diligently counsel clients and maintain the firm’s values in our commitment to our clients and our communities.”

    “I have had the pleasure of working with Jessica and Nick, I can attest to their exemplary litigation skills and dedication to their clients,” added David C. Roberts, who co-chairs the Litigation Practice Group along with the Honorable Emil Giordano (Ret.).

    About the New Members

    Nick Duston

    Since joining Norris McLaughlin in 2014 in the firm’s Bridgewater office, Duston has focused his practice on complex commercial disputes involving business owners, their managers, and their employees.

    With significant litigation experience in the state and federal courts of New Jersey and New York, Duston handles cases related to fraud and breaches of fiduciary duty, employee theft of trade secrets, diversion of corporate opportunities, and breaches of restrictive covenants or non-compete obligations. He is adept at unwinding complex fact patterns arising from complicated financial instruments, multi-entity business structures, and large amounts of electronically stored information. He also represents clients in arbitrations with the American Arbitration Association and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

    Duston’s practice also includes white-collar criminal matters, such as conducting internal investigations or defending companies and individuals during internal or government investigations into alleged securities fraud, money laundering, and other financial crimes. He has also handled many matters at the intersection of white-collar and civil litigation. Duston regularly handles issues relating to government seizure of property, particularly on behalf of secured lenders, including defense against civil and criminal asset forfeiture, as well as civil rights litigation when the government seizes property without due process or in violation of other constitutionally-protected rights.

    Duston earned his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in 2010 and his B.A., magna cum laude, from Boston University in 2007.

    Jessica Palmer

    Based in the Bridgewater office, Palmer is a litigator and advisor with more than ten years of experience assisting clients with complex commercial and environmental matters.

    As a litigator, Palmer is known for her thoughtful and diligent representation of clients in state and federal courts, as well as before administrative agencies including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). Palmer has extensive experience with both federal and state environmental laws, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”), the New Jersey Site Remediation Reform Act (“SRRA”), the Industrial Site Recovery Act (“ISRA”), the Major Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”).

    Palmer also devotes a significant portion of her practice to representing clients in regulatory compliance, permitting, and remediation efforts. She frequently advises clients on issues related to environmental insurance coverage and other cost recovery options. Finally, Palmer has extensive knowledge of the regulations governing licensed site remediation professionals (“LSRPs”).

    Palmer serves as Board Secretary for the Hunterdon County YMCA Board of Trustees. Licensed in New Jersey and New York, she has been selected for inclusion in the General Litigation section of New Jersey Rising Stars every year since 2014. Palmer is also a Barrister with the Justice Stewart G. Pollack Environmental Inn of Court.

    Palmer joined Norris McLaughlin in 2013. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Robert P. Contillo, P.J.Ch. for the 2009-2010 court term. Palmer earned her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law in 2009 and her B.A., with honors, from McGill University in 2006.

    Posted in: Jessica L. Palmer, Litigation, News, Nicholas A. Duston | Tags: , ,

  • Apr 01, 2019Jessica Palmer to Receive Hunterdon County YMCA Award

    Jessica L. Palmer, an Associate of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., will receive this year’s Bowden, Byrne, McCormick Dedication Award from the Hunterdon County YMCA.  The award, given to those who show outstanding dedication to the YMCA and their community, will be presented at the Hunterdon County Volunteer Recognition Awards ceremony at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, at the Stanton Ridge Country Club in Whitehouse Station.

    The Hunterdon County YMCA is a charitable service organization committed to helping people grow in spirit, mind, and body in Hunterdon County.

    A resident of Hillsborough, Palmer devotes her practice to environmental law and complex litigation.  She has experience representing clients in administrative and judicial proceedings before state and federal courts, and agencies including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  Palmer also has experience assisting clients in environmental due diligence efforts and counseling clients with regard to a variety of issues, including site remediation laws, New Jersey’s Spill Act, ISRA, and urban redevelopment.

    At Washington College of Law, American University, Palmer was a member of the editorial staff of the American University International Law Review and served as a constitutional law teacher in local inner-city schools.  She was awarded the Don Monroe Casto Constitutional Law Award.  Palmer has been selected for inclusion in the General Litigation section of New Jersey Rising Stars every year since 2014.

    Posted in: Jessica L. Palmer, News | Tags: , , , ,

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