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Environmental Justice Policy Revision

The Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is working to revise the existing Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy (EJ Policy). The Department is focused on incorporating a meaningful community engagement process to ensure inclusive community voice around its creation. The Department has created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to help folks understand what a DEP Policy is, what the EJ Policy is, the process for revising the EJ Policy, and what to expect based on the Department’s authority.

Our office would like to hear and consider feedback from environmental justice stakeholders across the Commonwealth as we move forward to develop a revised EJ Policy. Specifically, DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice is seeking input on the following questions:

  • How can the EJ Policy address communities’ environmental justice concerns?
  • What worked and what were challenges with the current EJ Policy?
  • How can we improve the public participation process within the policy?
  • How can DEP address environmental justice concerns in addition to permitting? What are your suggestions about addressing EJ through this policy in addition to permitting?
  • DEP currently delineates EJ Areas based on race (>30% minority) and income (>20% in poverty). Do you feel that the current definition, or any definition, of an Environmental Justice Area is effective? What revisions would you recommend for identifying vulnerable communities? Note that there is no federal definition as the US EPA intentionally does not create a definition for EJ Areas or communities, though their EJSCREEN tool is available and uses a variety of factors.

Click through below to explore the timeline and key elements of the process or view this timeline as a PDF.

Timeline and Key Elements 


Expand AllClick here for a more accessible version

The new updated Policy is proposed to include: revised EJ areas/population definition; interagency collaboration and EJ planning; EJ mapping, resource and data development; grantmaking practices around EJ; translation processes; and EJ training for Department staff and external partners. The existing EJ Policy from 2004 will remain in effect until the revised policy is created.

We will add more information about the revisions and ways to engage as the process moves forward. Please contact our office with any questions. Sign up for the OEJ newsletter to stay involved in the update process.

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Recent Outreach

Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB) Meeting

The EJAB was presented with an EJ Policy Working Draft of the August 19, 2021. To see information about that meeting, scroll down to the 2021 Meetings area of the EJAB page.

Preliminary EJ Policy Revision Discussions

DEP hosted two (2) sessions to discuss revisions to the EJ Policy in March 2021.

Session Presentation

Monday, March 22, 2021 - 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Comments Received

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm – Comments Received

Previous Revision Efforts 

The Department conducted a process of revising the EJ Policy that was released for public comment in 2018. The Policy focused on enhancing public participation during permit reviews for specific trigger permits that warranted additional public input and engagement in specific geographic areas, known as EJ areas. The draft Policy included several revisions and updates but continued to focus solely on public engagement in the permit review process.

Comments received during the public comment period suggested that the Policy extend beyond enhancing public outreach and engagement during the permit review process. After reviewing all comments received, the Department decided in October 2020 to withdraw the draft 2018 EJ Public Participation Policy to develop a Policy that will focus public participation but also on integrating EJ into other Department practices and policies.