Environmental Justice Policy Revision
What is the EJ Policy?
Watch a video overview about the EJ Policy
All DEP (Department) policies are written, nonbinding documents that outline procedures that Department and others may put in place and actions they may take to meet the requirements of an environmental law or outline key practices of an agency or organization. The interim final EJ Policy helps guide the Department in integrating EJ into more aspects of the work within regulatory limits.
Environmental Justice (EJ) Policy
After extensive public comment reviews and policy revisions, DEP adopted an interim final
Environmental Justice Policy on September 16, 2023. Additionally, DEP has an improved mapping tool to better identify EJ areas within the Commonwealth and has an expansive and elevated Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ). There will be a formal public comment period until November 30, 2023. The
EJ Policy from 2004 will only apply to permit applications received before September 16 and grant applications relating to materials released before September 16.
The interim-final EJ Policy includes several sections that enhance the
previous Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy which had been in effect since 2004.
Introduction section includes history and background.
Definitions section describes key terms used in the policy to help clarify the document for the public, DEP staff, and the regulated community.
Environmental Justice Criteria describes where the policy applies. This will be done through the
PennEnviroScreen tool, described in detail in the
Pennsylvania Environmental Justice Mapping and Screening Tool (PennEnviroScreen) Methodology Documentation 2023.
Proactive Community Engagement section describes how DEP can center community voices by reaching communities before an environmental crisis or project application comes before the agency for review.
Enhanced Public Participation Process provides a systematic approach to ensure that the permitting process prioritizes EJ as a key consideration in the review process.
Inspections, Compliance, and Enforcement guidance help the policy move beyond public participation in the permitting process and consider how DEP can be prioritized within regulatory limits after permits are approved.
Community Development and Investments seeks to facilitate financial assistance to communities facing environmental justice issues.
Climate Initiatives clarifies ways that EJ can be integrated in the climate action plan and other climate change related efforts.
Policy Updates, the final section, specifies the review and revision cycles for the policy to ensure data reliability and applicability.
Watch a video
overview about the PennEnviroScreen tool or a more detailed
tutorial on how to navigate the PennEnviroScreen tool.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Justice Mapping and Screening Tool (PennEnviroScreen) available online at
gis.dep.pa.gov/PennEnviroScreen/. The state-of-the-art mapping tool will allow DEP to more accurately identify communities facing environmental justice issues using 32 environmental, health, and socioeconomic indicators.
This tool will include new EJ Areas that took effect on September 16, 2023, and will also show the EJ areas that have been identified under the old policy for permits and grant applications under review that are applicable to the 2004 mapping. If a DEP permit applicant plans to file a permit application on or after September 16, the applicant should consider using the new PennEnviroScreen tool to determine if the permit’s facility is in an environmental justice area. If a grant application is submitted in response to a grant application package published after September 16, then these EJ areas will apply.
There is a
PennEnviroScreen methodology document that provides detail on the tool, targeted toward academics and researchers. This document offers in-depth information about the tool.
Additionally, DEP has created four instructional videos designed to introduce the PennEnviroScreen tool. There are short videos to provide an
overview on environmental justice, an
overview on the EJ Policy, an
overview on the PennEnviroScreen tool, and a
tutorial on using the PennEnviroScreen tool. You can also
view the slide presentation - EJ Environmental Justice Overview & Environmental Justice Policy Implementation.
Past Outreach During the Revision Efforts
2023 Public Comment Period
DEP held a public comment period on the revised policy from September 16 – November 30, 2023. During this public comment period, DEP held 3 virtual and 9 in-person public hearings to obtain input. The testimony from these hearing will be added to the written comments collected on using the Department's online eComment tool.
To help publicize this comment period, DEP offered to attend local events, advisory committees, and other meetings at community request. DEP attended over 60 such meetings to help get the word out about the comment period. DEP also provided outreach materials to help spread the word.
Previous Revision Efforts
2022 Public Comment Period
DEP held a public comment period on the revised policy from April 12 – May 11, 2022. This formal public comment period built off of community input given in several ways described below. During this public comment period, DEP held 4 virtual public hearings to obtain input. The testimony from these hearing will be added to the written comments collected on using
the Department's online eComment tool.
To help publicize this comment period, DEP offered to attend local events, advisory committees, and other meetings at community request. DEP attended over 20 such meetings to help get the word out about the comment period. DEP also provided outreach materials to help spread the word, as shown below.
Webinar Overview of Draft Environmental Justice Policy: Monday, March 28, 2022
DEP held a webinar on the draft Environmental Justice Policy on Monday, March 28 to raise awareness on the draft Policy and aid those interested in providing verbal or written testimony.
A Spanish translated version of the webinar is available here. Formal suggestions and comments on the EJ Policy should be offered through writing or at a formal public hearing as described in the “How can I comment on the EJ Policy?” section on this webpage.
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.
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.