Pennsylvania Environmental Justice Update
On October 28, 2021, Governor Wolf issued an Executive Order that prescribes a process to revise the existing Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy, and permanently establishes the Office of Environmental Justice within PADEP. The Order directs the Office of Environmental Justice to take certain actions and allows it to take others. Among those actions that are mandated are:
- making recommendations to PADEP on the integration of Environmental Justice (EJ) considerations throughout PADEP’s programs;
- working with PADEP to identify economic development and funding opportunities and consider EJ in the grant awarding process;
- developing and publishing an EJ strategic plan every five years;
- along with other stakeholders, revising the existing Environmental Justice Policy to define and establish criteria for EJ Areas, and to develop an enhanced public participation plan for EJ Areas potentially affected by development projects and industrial operations.
The Office of EJ is also directed to develop standardized mitigation and/or restoration practices for consideration by applicants and permit application reviewers in the permitting or cleanup context. The Order allows the Office to establish an EJ mapping tool to examine environmental and health impacts on vulnerable Pennsylvania communities and an online repository of EJ information and data. The Order also permanently establishes the Environmental Justice Advisory Board and the Environmental Justice Interagency Council.
The current draft of the EJ Public Participation Policy is posted on PADEP’s website. PADEP held two discussion sessions in 2021 and has solicited public comments. PADEP is expecting to finalize and start implementing the EJ Public Participation Policy in the summer of 2022.