Payne, Pallone Urge Greater Focus on Environmental Justice in Newark, Other Port Communities

November 1, 2016
Press Release

NEWARK, NJ – Congressmen Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action and a member of the Coalition for Healthy Ports (CHP), for an environmental justice tour of the Port of New York and New Jersey and surrounding neighborhoods, including the Ironbound and South Ward. Afterward, at a press conference in Newark, the congressmen discussed the tour and the city’s historic Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance.

“Every single day, children in Newark are exposed to harmful levels of pollution from the port and other sources that rob them of their health, just because of where they live,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “As a parent and a lifelong resident of Newark, this is personal to me. Low-income and minority residents are being denied the basic right to clean air, and it’s harming lives. Newark’s historic environmental justice ordinance is an important step in the right direction toward sustainability, and is a testament to the city’s commitment to the health of every member of our community. If other municipalities are serious about fighting pollution in overburdened communities, they should follow Newark’s example.”   

“A New Jerseyan’s zip code and the community they live in should not determine their ability to breathe clean air and live in a safe environment,” said Congressman Pallone. “We need to make sure that low-income and minority children are able to grow up in pollution free communities and I am glad we are taking a look at the port’s impact. I appreciate the work of Newark in raising the issue of environmental justice and hope that cities throughout New Jersey follow their lead.”

Low-income and minority communities are disproportionately exposed to and affected by air pollution. The City of Newark is overburdened with concentrated environmental pollution due to multiple sources, including port traffic, waste facilities, and industrial plants. Exposure of residents, especially children, to port pollution results in increased risk for cancer, more hospital visits, and missed school days.

According to the Village Voice, “One in four Newark children suffers from asthma; the hospitalization rate is 150 percent greater for kids living in the city than in the rest of the state, and more than thirty times the rate nationwide.” Asthma is now the leading cause of absenteeism for school-age children in Newark, Bayonne, and Elizabeth, New Jersey.

“We applaud the congressmen today for demanding clean air for port neighborhoods,” said Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director for Clean Water Action and Chair of the Coalition for Healthy Ports (CHP). “We look forward to the NJ delegation pressing the next administration’s EPA to fulfill its existing commitment to port activists around the country—moving all port operations towards zero emissions and a healthier tomorrow for both residents and port workers.” 

“As a parent of three children with Asthma, I understand the importance of clean air and the reduction of diesel pollution impacting the health of all children in Newark and surrounding port communities,” said Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action. “16,000 trucks enter the Port of NY-NJ on a daily basis, and thousands of these trucks travel on our neighborhood streets. We can’t escape port diesel. It’s everywhere—our homes, schools, and parks.”

In July 2016, Newark passed a first-in-the-nation Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance, which requires developers seeking environmental permits to inform the city of any environmental impacts. The ordinance enables decision-makers and the public to make informed decisions about sustainable development that will reduce pollution and improve air quality to protect the health of all residents.

The New Jersey congressmen have long fought to address environmental justice concerns in New Jersey. In June 2016, Congressmen Payne, Jr. and Albio Sires (NJ-08) led a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging greater federal attention to address poor air quality issues caused by air pollution from ports and other emissions-emitting freight transportation systems.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its strategic plan for advancing environmental justice focusing on the environmental and public health issues and challenges confronting the nation’s minority, low-income, tribal and indigenous populations. Over the next five years the EPA will prioritize overburdened communities by deepening environmental justice practice within EPA’s programs.

The Congressmen are also supporters of the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Cooperative Agreement Program, which provides financial assistance to eligible organizations working on projects to address local environmental and/or public health issues in their communities, using EPA's "Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Model." The CPS Program assists recipients in building collaborative partnerships to help them understand and address environmental and public health concerns in their communities.