Office of Environmental Justice

About the Office of Environmental Justice

“All of our residents regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion deserve to live in communities free from the effects of pollution and are entitled to participate in decision-making that affects their environment, their communities, their homes and their health. Good environmental policy is something that must lift all communities. The Executive Order I am signing (E.O. 23) will ensure state agencies are considering the cumulative impacts of their actions in overburdened communities on an ongoing basis.”

Governor Phil Murphy

Environmental justice touches a wide variety of issues related to quality of life, including housing, health, and transportation. Low-income communities and communities of color in New Jersey and across the country often bear the brunt of pollution and the impacts of climate change. Further exemplifying the disparity, between 2012 and 2016, the rate of asthma for African Americans was 17.2% compared to 12% for whites in New Jersey.

Governor Murphy is committed to supporting environmental justice in New Jersey. It is a priority not only for the DEP, but for all state agencies, to incorporate environmental justice considerations into their actions. DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is charged with overseeing this endeavor. OEJ aims to guide the DEP’s program areas and state agencies in working to achieve environmental justice, empower residents who are often outside of the decision-making process of government, and address environmental concerns to improve the quality of life in New Jersey’s overburdened communities.

Additionally, the Office of Environmental Justice:

  • Administers the Environmental Justice Advisory Council
  • Aids in the development and/or implementation of department policy, regulations, and procedures to increase opportunities for meaningful public participation and to address potential environmental justice concerns
  • Aids in health tracking and environmental data analysis
  • Informs community members of opportunities for public participation
  • Acts as a community liaison to amplify community concerns within the department
  • Conducts outreach and educational efforts to municipalities and community-based organizations
  • Streamlines access to information to effectuate meaningful involvement in state level environmental decision-making
  • Fosters partnerships to increase involvement in environmental decision-making at all levels of government
  • Promotes sustainable and equitable community revitalization
  • Supports the consideration of environmental justice in climate mitigation and resiliency and clean energy

Meet the OEJ Coordinator – Riché Smiley Outlaw

CoordinatorRiché Smiley Outlaw has served in various capacities with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for over 25 years. In her current role as the State’s Environmental Justice Coordinator she passionately advocates and leads the Department's effort in addressing the environmental impacts that disproportionately burden the most vulnerable communities in our state. She is ideally suited to this role, more as a calling than that of a career choice. With family ties that were deeply rooted in Montgomery, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1960s, Riché learned first-hand about the importance of social activism in the face of injustice and disproportionate impacts as well as the value of collective power and community engagement.

Prior to her appointment to the Office of Environmental Justice, Riché garnered over 20 years of experience as a Case Manager in the Site Remediation Program working on Superfund, RCRA, NJDOT roadway projects and responsible party remediation sites. She began her career at DEP in the Division of Water Resources, Construction Grants Program where she evaluated the environmental impacts associated with the technical upgrades of wastewater treatment plants.

In addition to her DEP responsibilities, Riché is actively involved in several civic and professional organizations including the Society of Women Environmental Professionals, Greater Pennsylvania and New Jersey chapter, where she is coordinates the DEP Regulatory Update meeting. Riché is a life member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Theta Pi Omega chapter, where she was the chairman of the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Initiative.

Riché received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the prestigious Tuskegee University in Alabama. She is happily married to Dev Outlaw and they have 2 lovely daughters, Courtney and Simone.