Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell hosted nine listening sessions across the state between April 12, 2017, and May 25, 2017, soliciting feedback on DEP’s policies regarding environmental justice, the principle that communities should not be disproportionately exposed to adverse environmental impacts.
- 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% poverty and/or 30% 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?
As a result of the feedback received during the Listening Tour, DEP is analyzing how environmental justice communities are defined, examining potential improvements to the public participation process, and developing best practices for engaging communities during decision-making processes, among other topics. Throughout this review, DEP will continue to facilitate conversations with the public and the Environmental Justice Advisory Board regarding revisions to DEP’s existing policies and procedures.
DEP’s release of the listening tour transcripts and comment document is part of DEP’s ongoing efforts to improve the public’s access to information and to increase communities' environmental awareness.