The problem of cumulative impacts (CI) exists whenever an area is burdened with multiple sources of pollution that combine to pose a risk to the health of community residents and natural ecosystems. Our current legal and decision-making systems have not successfully addressed CI because they attempt to regulate pollution by establishing individual standards and do not address the cumulative effects of multiple pollutants. Global warming, chemical contamination of wildlife, and the accelerating loss of biodiversity have raised awareness that the traditional regulatory approach inadequately protects the natural environment and people.
These graphs, from NJDEP, demonstrate that in our state CI is directly linked to race and income. As the proportion of the population living in poverty rises, pollution rises. And as percentage of people of color rises, pollution rises in lockstep.
Newark is particularly vulnerable to CI due to a combination of race, poverty, multiple polluters and multiple polluted sites. Newark’s population is overwhelmingly of color and disproportionately poor, while the city also provides a physical home to numerous brownfield sites and large polluters such as the port, airport and municipal incinerator. Even NJDEP has recognized that in Newark “there are disproportionate impacts from multiple sources of air pollution.”
NJEJA is working on both a state and municipal level to address the CI problem in New Jersey. On the state level we have developed policy that would integrate CI into the permitting process and on the municipal level we have developed an EJ and CI model municipal ordinance that addresses the issue.