DEP Publishes Comments Gathered In Environmental Justice Listening Tour

As a next step in reshaping its environmental justice office, the Department of Environmental Protection Friday announced it has published the transcripts and a document listing all comments received during DEP’s statewide listening tour on environmental justice.

The tour, held at nine locations around the state, solicited feedback on DEP’s policies regarding environmental justice, which is the principle that communities and populations should not be disproportionately exposed to adverse environmental impacts.

As DEP continues to review the comments, staff are analyzing how environmental justice communities are defined, examining improvements to receiving public input, and developing best practices to ensure communities are sufficiently engaged during the decision-making processes.

This review, as well as continuing conversations with the public, will help steer revisions to existing DEP policies and procedures.

“The Office of Environmental Justice fulfills a critical role within DEP-- ensuring that all Pennsylvanians, especially those who have historically been disenfranchised, are fully involved in decisions that affect their environment and community,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “These listening sessions started a meaningful dialogue on how we can improve on our responsibility to ensure environmental justice.”

Secretary McDonnell hosted nine listening sessions across the state between April 12 and May 25, 2017, hearing from residents about their perspectives on environmental justice.

The Department solicited input on the following questions:

-- What environmental justice concerns are most pressing in your community?

-- Do you feel that the current definition of an environmental justice community (20 percent poverty and/or 30 percent minority) properly represents the needs of your community and the Commonwealth at large?

-- Do you feel the DEP is engaged with marginalized communities to ensure that they have a voice in the decision-making process? How can the DEP be more engaged with these communities?

-- What tools have you used to find out information on DEP permitting/enforcement actions?

-- What ways can the DEP be more effective at sharing information with the public?

-- How can the DEP be more effective at receiving public input?

-- What resource(s) is your community lacking that the DEP can provide that would assist in efforts to ensure environmental equity?

-- What additional steps can be taken by the Department to effectively reach out to these vulnerable communities to ensure that their concerns are taken into consideration?

The comments received from 149 individuals and organizations will help drive revisions to the program and the process of engaging the public during permitting, enforcement, and grantmaking.

Click Here to review the comment document and transcripts of each listening session.  Questions should be direct by email to:

Environmental Justice Advisory Board Meeting

The comments will be discussed in detail at the November 14 meeting of DEP’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board. The board provides guidance to DEP on environmental justice policies.

Click Here for more information on the meeting.

[Posted: Oct. 27, 2017]


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