NJ Environment at Risk and Rodney Frelinghuysen Needs to Act.
On June 9, BlueWave NJ, Clean Water Action, and 27 other NJ civic and environmental groups delivered a powerful, collective plea to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen to meet to discuss the Trump Administration’s devastating proposed cuts to the EPA—and NJDEP in particular.
If these cuts go through, our state will lose a crippling $194 million in critical resources for Superfund sites, lead elimination, and more. Read the letter here. While Rep. Frelinghuysen has supported continued funding for Superfund sites, he has not responded to the group’s letter and petitions containing 35,000 signatures. As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Frelinghuysen has the power to block or limit the budget cuts. We are following up on our letter, and will hold him accountable in 2018.
Let’s make this issue real. Environmental budget cuts like those contemplated are deep and personal for NJ citizens, as BlueWave NJ’s Environmental Committee recently learned from Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Coordinator for our partner organization, Clean Water Action.
When all of Gaddy’s three children were diagnosed with asthma, she refused to remain silent. Motivated by fear for all of the children in her Newark community, Gaddy asked, “What is wrong with this place? And, how can we stop it from hurting our kids?”
Gaddy first started talking to parent groups about cleaning products in their homes. But she didn’t stop there. Her commitment and growing expertise led to her chairing the Newark and Essex County Environmental Commissions, serving on NJDEP’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council, 12 years of work for municipal government, election to the Newark School Board, and a 2007 EPA award for her fight for Environmental Justice in urban communities.
Gaddy described to the group the health threats still posed by Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the second busiest seaport in the nation.
Run by the Port Authority, the seaport handles 15,000 aging, diesel-powered trucks a day, 3,500 to 4,000 of which use local roads in and out.
“The port is the economic engine for the tri-state region, but it is a death zone for Newark’s South and East Wards,” she said. Trucks driving on local streets, or idling while ships unload, are only part of the problem. Unloading machinery also spews pollutants. Approximately one in four Newark children suffer pollution-related asthma. Ironically, because there are no local access roads or buses to the seaport, few Newark residents can benefit from jobs in the port’s workforce.
“We have to push for both environmental and economic justice,” Gaddy said, outlining two of Clean Water Action’s demands:
- Mandates and monetary support to replace old, diesel operated trucks, and to retrofit cranes for electric power
- More employment for Newark residents at a minimum wage comparable to the Port Authority’s airports ($15 an hour), along with a PATH train stop and bus routes to link the port directly to downtown Newark
Environmental justice is always linked to economic justice, Gaddy noted, as she also described efforts to replace lead-leaching pipes in Newark school water fountains. “They have the same problems in Bergen and Union. We see it mostly in old schools, serving poor children in communities of color.”
All these clean-up and infrastructure efforts are threatened by the Administration’s proposed 31% cut to the EPA, and zero funding for the Environmental Justice Fund, which provides small-scale grants to local groups for environmental clean-up projects. Pressure on our Representatives and Senators is critical right now.
“They’re talking about cutting or combining two of the ten EPA regions nationwide, crippling the EPA's ability to respond to environmental problems in those areas,” Gaddy said. “But we don’t know if NJ is one of them.” After more than 30 years of heroic environmental activism, she still sees children at risk. All of our children.