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Environmental Justice Matters - Weigh in on the DEP’s Newly Unveiled Policy NOW

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Editor's Note: Good news! The DEP has extended the public comment period. This blog has been updated to reflect the new submission deadline of Nov. 30.

Did you hear? The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently debuted its new Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy and is seeking YOUR input.

For full details, please check out this explainer blog from our senior attorney.

But to summarize: The DEP said the purpose of the new policy is “to facilitate environmental justice in communities across the Commonwealth and ensure equity and environmental justice” and that the agency intends to accomplish this by:

  1. reaching out proactively to environmental justice communities to encourage their participation in its permitting decisions for facilities that are likely to affect them

  2. prioritizing the concept of environmental justice in its compliance and enforcement activities

  3. using grantmaking, brownfield redevelopment, and pollution mitigation projects to promote environmental justice.

GASP applauds DEP for instituting an updated Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy and is supportive of the agency’s three-pronged approach - and we hope you will be, too.

However, the new policy would be more effective if DEP would determine how its permitting process can be made more transparent and open to public participation in general.

Specifically, we believe DEP should (and could) include two additional measures in its new policy:

First: DEP could make more - if not all - draft permits available online. Currently, residents interested in viewing those documents would need to make a public records request or file review. While lawyers and advocates are well-versed in open records rules, DEP would be wise to recognize that this process can be a barrier to residents and their public participation.

Second: The agency could Identify what information it seeks from the public in its permitting decisions and then educate residents and encourage their participation in the process so that they can advocate for their communities by pushing for stronger environmental and public health protections.

They say that decisions are made by those who show up, which is why GASP wants to make it as quick and easy for local folks to weigh in on the new policy. We hope you’ll join us in supporting DEP’s efforts to prioritize environmental justice and public participation while also calling for more transparency.

You can do that by completing our simple form below. Go ahead and take a minute to second our calls to action and share your views and personal experiences. The deadline to weigh in is coming up Nov. 30, so don’t wait:

Editor's Note: The public comment period is now closed - thank you to everyone who submitted a public comment.

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