Currently, the DEP is in the process of making revisions to their Environmental Justice Policy. This is a much-needed update because the current Environmental Justice Policy has been in effect since 2
004. The DEP illustrates that Environmental Justice embodies the principles that com
munities and populations should not be disproportionately exposed to adverse environmental impacts. So, the Environmental Justice Policy is a protection policy to prevent environmental injustices. The current Environmental Justice (EJ) policy is to remain in effect until the updated policy is adopted.
The DEP policies are documents that outline the procedures that the DEP follows to meet the requirements of environmental law. The draft of the updated EJ Policy will help guide the Department to further expand the aspects of EJ work within regulatory limits.
In the policy revision, there were several new updates. The new plan expanded the General Information section, defining more terms and defining the EJ tasks. An EJ Strategic Plan (Section IC-8) will be developed every 5 years. Focusing attention on environmental and public health issues that are affecting Pennsylvanians, especially minority and low-income populations. The policy also added a section on Inspection, Compliance, and Enforcement (Section V), Climate Initiatives (Section VI), and Grants (Section VII A) to expand the depth of the policy. Additionally, the DEP secretary will also be responsible for reviewing this policy at least every four years to determine its effectiveness and make the proper updates to stay in compliance with environmental laws and community policy concerns (Section VII).
Public notification and public participation periods remained the same, allowing 30 days for each. The most notable update with Public Participation is the changes made to the Public Participation Trigger Permits. The new policy revision includes two new sections in PPTP: Oil and Gas Permits and Opt-In Permits. The Oil and Gas Permit notification includes the drill and operate permit and drill and operate a use change. This new addition to the policy allows for the community to be informed of changes with the Oil and Gas operators. Allowing time for the community to prepare for potential environmental degradation and engage in public participation. Section III, Opt-In Permits, includes permits that are not specified in the list but involve project facilities. The qualifications for Opt-In permits centralize around pollution, environmental hazards, and community concerns.
Updates to the Environmental Justice Policy are critical in the
expansion of environmental protection. The EJ policy was planned to be implemented in the Summer of 2022, but as of Dec. 9th, the policy has not been adopted. Communications with Justin Dula reveal the Department is still currently making policy updates and revisions to incorporate comments. They are also creating a comment response sheet for public comments and incorporation in the policy. The Department would like to have the policy updated, adopted, and implemented in the next few months.
DEP and Environmental Justice Policy updates hold operators responsible for their destructive actions and protect the community from environmental injustices.
Image credit: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/569023/braddock/