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The Last Line Of Environmental Defense Is You - Report Environmental Problems

To limit exposure to and spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Department of Environmental Protection  is currently prioritizing field inspections and responding to environmental complaints related to issues critical to public health and safety.

To report environmental emergencies, please call DEP at 1-800-541-2050 or file an online Environmental Complaint Form with DEP.

With that in mind, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services’ recently posted this article, which is reprinted in part, in response to EPA’s discretionary enforcement policy announced last week.

The Department of Environmental Protection also announced it will consider case-by-case waivers of environmental regulations and requirements that are significantly impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.

The article describes how you can do your part to report environmental problems and be-- The Last Line Of Environmental Defense--

Environmental laws have not been suspended, but you need to be the eyes of the usual governmental enforcers.

We want to remind everyone that our environmental laws aren’t just enforced by our federal or state governments, they can also be enforced by you.

That’s right, every one of our environmental laws has a provision in it allowing everyday people to defend their environment when their government does not.

Given all the outdoor time everyone has and the concerning implications of unchecked air and water pollution, if you are in good health, now is a great time to become a citizen scientist and help enforce environmental laws.

To help community leaders like you, we have put together this quick checklist of what you can do to identify and take action on environmental violations in this critical time.

After all, when we’re concerned about air pollution exacerbating the presence of the coronavirus in our air, we all have to contribute to safeguarding our environmental health.

How You Can Help Defend Your Environment

1. Gather Evidence

See or smell something? Use your phone to take pictures or video of the problem. Note the time, the place, any description, the conditions and anything else you think is notable about the issue.

See or smell the issue repeatedly? Make a log.

We created this task list for environmental action last year for pipeline issues, but many of the tasks remain the same and it might be useful to look over while out in the field!

There are some useful apps you can download on your phone to record sights and smells that are concerning like SmellPGH and the FracTracker app.

For air quality concerns you can also check Purple Air Monitors Map and see if there are any air monitors in your area and whether or not they are picking up concerning levels of pollution.

It is important to note that gathering evidence with these apps does not mean that the information is reported to the proper authorities.

No matter what means of evidence gathering you use, you will need to present this evidence directly to the proper authority.

Stay safe, exercise social distancing and do not trespass!

[Call DEP at 1-800-541-2050 or file an online Environmental Complaint Form.]

2. Report Violations

You can still file complaints with the EPA and state agencies for violations of environmental laws. You can send them to the facility as well so that they know folks are paying attention. Below are some examples of who should report to--

-- Call DEP at 1-800-541-2050 with a spill or emergency [or file an online Environmental Complaint Form.]

-- PA Spill Reporting Requirements

-- Allegheny County Health Department

-- Philadelphia Air Quality Management

While your complaint may not lead to action on the agencies’ part, it will document your concerns with the proper authorities, which may be important later on.

3. Contact a local nonprofit or environmental group to help.

The best option for enforcement right now is to gather evidence and work with an environmental nonprofit, watershed association, or an environmental law firm like Fair Shake to take matters into your own hands.

[Fair Shake has a list of some groups to contact or contact them.]

There is a lot to digest here, and this may be too much for any one person to take on alone yet too risky to do in a large group.

It is most important that you are staying safe and practicing social distancing at all times.

Don’t be afraid to lean on us if you need help. If you think that a facility near you is taking advantage of the EPA’s moratorium on enforcement, give us a call and we can give you some more guidance on what we would need to file a case.

For more information, visit the Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services website.

(Reprinted in part from the Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services website.)


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[Posted: April 11, 2020]


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