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Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy

The Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy is a critical part of DEP’s environmental justice work, providing guidelines for DEP’s approach to permit applications and outlining our permit review process in Environmental Justice Areas. Communities where 20 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line and/or 30 percent are non-white minorities are defined as Environmental Justice Areas in the policy.

 
The policy was created to ensure that Environmental Justice Areas have the opportunity to participate and be involved in a meaningful manner throughout the permitting process when regulated activities are proposed in their neighborhood or when existing facilities expand their operations. 

 

Draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy

The DEP Office of Environmental Justice has released the draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy, under the guidance of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board and with the input of hundreds of stakeholders in listening sessions throughout 2017. 
 
Key revisions to the policy include:
 
  • Redrawing EJ Areas on the basis of census block groups, rather than census tracts, which enables 32 percent of Pennsylvanians to be supported by the Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy, an increase of 12 percent.
  • Expanding the list of trigger permits, which call for enhanced public participation procedures, to include permits for underground injection wells.
  • Revising and reorganizing the policy to remove outdated terminology and adding outreach strategies to increase transparency and clarity for community use.
  • Providing an Environmental Justice Areas Viewer tool to provide give the public improved access to centralized geographic and demographic data, Environmental Justice Area layers, and permitted-facility details.  

Public Comments Invited

Because this policy is the blueprint for engaging Environmental Justice Areas around DEP's permit process, it's vitally important that we receive input from communities on this policy.

The draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy was open for public comment on the Department's eComment website on Saturday, July 14, and closed on Tuesday, August 28, 2018.

Thank you to all who provided comment on the EJ draft policy.

The current Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy, created in 2004, may be viewed in detail at EJ Enhanced Public Participation Policy (PDF). Here's an overview.

ENHANCED PUBLIC PARTICIPATION POLICY

THE PENNSYLVANIA ENHANCED PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS

Under the guidance of the Environmental Justice Advisory Work Group, DEP developed the EJ Enhanced Public Participation Policy (PDF). The policy was created to ensure that EJ communities have the opportunity to participate and be involved in a meaningful manner throughout the permitting process when companies propose permitted facilities in their neighborhood or when existing facilities expand their operations. Appendix A of the policy includes a list of permits which trigger the EJ Enhanced Public Participation Policy.

POLICY HIGHLIGHTS

COMMUNITY OUTREACH

  • DEP strongly encourages applicants to meet with community stakeholders. DEP notifies the applicant early in the process when a permit application meets the criteria for EJ, and, when appropriate, provides assistance to the applicant with outreach initiatives.
  • DEP produces and distributes project summary documents regarding the proposed activity.
  • DEP provides stakeholders with information regarding proposed permit conditions and, when needed, offers clarification to help make project details more apparent.

PUBLIC INFORMATION

  • DEP encourages the use of electronic, conventional and non-conventional methods of spreading information to community members.
  • Public Notices are written in terminology easily understood by the majority of readers within the EJ area.
  • Notices are placed in publications widely read by the community in those areas, and placed locally in areas of high visibility. Examples of effective vehicles for notification include, but are not limited to local newspapers, community newsletters, church bulletins, public service announcements and notices on local radio and television stations, notices posted in areas of high foot traffic, notices to local environmental groups, and notices to local community centers.
  • Applicants are encouraged to mail all the appropriate information about the project to those in an EJ area.

PUBLIC MEETINGS

  • Pre-application meetings: As part of the enhanced public participation strategy, DEP strongly encourages potential applicants to meet with community stakeholders prior to submitting an application to DEP.
  • Informational meetings: DEP, in coordination with the applicant, schedules an informational meeting within 30 days of receipt of the application. The purpose of the meeting is to inform the residents of the scope and nature of the project in a timely, interactive manner. This meeting is in addition to any other currently required public meetings and/or hearings.
  • Applicants’ role: Applicants are encouraged to fully participate in the meeting, and may take the lead in setting up and conducting the meeting. It benefits everyone when the meeting takes place as early in the process as possible. DEP's EJ Coordinators are available to advise or to help applicants advertise the meeting to the local community, particularly those who are closer to the facility.

SUMMARY OF APPLICATION

  • DEP provides a summary of the application that explains the project in terms understandable to the majority of readers within an EJ area. A sample summary (PDF) is available. This summary addresses the purpose and location of the proposed activity or facility, and anticipated impacts. These summaries can also be used in other aspects of public outreach.
  • Document Availability - Access to relevant information is vital to meaningful participation. DEP’s efforts to ensure participation include:
    1. Identification of convenient locations where the public can review applications
    2. Additional support on how to locate materials in a file
    3. If needed, extended hours for file review or reviews by appointment, including evenings and weekends.

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