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Environmental Justice Policy

After extensive public comment, 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 was a formal public comment period until November 30, 2023 and DEP is now working on a comment-response document for comments received during this period. The EJ Policy from 2004 is no longer in effect, but will still apply to permit applications received before September 16 and grant applications relating to grant application materials released before September 16. You can see the former 2004 Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy here.

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.

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.

PennEnviroScreen Tool

The Pennsylvania Environmental Justice Mapping and Screening Tool (PennEnviroScreen) available online at The state-of-the-art mapping tool will allow DEP to more accurately identify communities facing environmental justice issues using more than 30 environmental, health, and socioeconomic indicators.

This tool will include new EJ Areas that will take effect on September 16, 2023, but will also show the EJ areas that have been in place under the old policy for permits and grant applications going through under the older 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.

DEP is in the process of creating videos to help introduce the PennEnviroScreen tool. There is a PennEnviroScreen methodology document that goes into detail on the tool, targeted toward academics and researchers.

Policy Highlights

Trigger Projects:

The following spreadsheets detail project permit applications that have been subject to the Environmental Justice Policy since October 15, 2021. These spreadsheets will be updated regularly.

Opt-in Project:

An Opt-in Project - A project requiring permits, authorizations, or approvals from DEP that otherwise does not automatically trigger DEP’s EJ Policy, but which DEP determines should be evaluated under the EJ Policy based on identified community concerns, present or anticipated environmental impacts, or reasonably anticipated significant adverse community environmental burden. General Concerns about existing projects can be submitted through Environmental Complaints.

Note: The Opt-In Request Form is not required as a prerequisite for the DEP to process particular projects in accordance with the EJ Policy; rather it is available to facilitate requests from the public.

Policy Content

  1. Introduction section includes history and background.
  2. The Definitions section describes key terms used in the policy to help clarify the document for the public, DEP staff, and the regulated community.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Enhanced Public Participation Process provides a systematic approach to ensure that the permitting process prioritizes EJ as a key consideration in the review process.
  6. 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.
  7. Community Development and Investments seeks to facilitate financial assistance to communities facing environmental justice issues.
  8. Climate Initiatives clarifies ways that EJ can be integrated in the climate action plan and other climate change related efforts.
  9. Policy Updates, the final section, specifies the review and revision cycles for the policy to ensure data reliability and applicability.