How Biden Agenda Could Be Impacted by State Environmental Justice Trends

The new Biden administration will take office in late January as a handful of states are pushing their own efforts to address environmental compliance and environmental justice issues that could impact recyclers and influence the emerging federal agenda. Because states are often the test beds for nascent federal policy, recycling experts are closely watching them for their potential influence when the new administration takes over.

“Several states have singled out recycling from a compliance perspective and an environmental justice perspective,” said Cheryl Coleman, ISRI’s vice president for sustainability. “And we are seeing states starting to pass their own rules and develop and implement their own policies related to environmental compliance and environmental justice.”

One such example is New Jersey. In September, Gov. Phil Murphy signed S-232 into law, enacting an expansive environmental justice process for permit applications in “overburdened communities” as the law defines them. Recycling facilities and scrapyards are named as “environmental stressors” and pollution sources subject to new regulations. This could result in the denial of permits for new or expanded facilities or conditions on permits to alleviate adverse impacts on the community, as the regulations define such impacts. ISRI is working with its New Jersey Chapter in the rulemaking stage to positively affect development of the regulations. Another example is Connecticut. The state recently approved changes to its 2009 environmental justice law. But unlike the New Jersey law, the Connecticut law specifies that facilities may enter into community agreements to mitigate impacts that might include incorporating the benefits of recycling. Such agreements are now mandatory if the community contains five or more affected facilities. In both New Jersey and Connecticut, recyclers will need to develop defensible positions on how recycling is beneficial to the community in ways that offset any perceived impacts. In Maine, citizens there have initiated a rulemaking asking the Department of
Environmental Protection to add environmental justice provisions to existing solid waste rules when considering a permit for a new or expanding recycling facility.

In these three instances, ISRI has been working with state officials to ensure that the recycling industry’s interests and economic impact are fairly and accurately presented. “At the state level, it is important for the industry to highlight its positive impacts on communities and the manufacturing industry,” Coleman said. “That includes stressing that recycling is an essential component of the economy, especially during these challenging times, and that recycled materials are used to make hospital beds, in hospital expansions, build temporary housing and a host of other important needs.”