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DEP Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy

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The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced an Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy to enhance permit application reviews and outreach in environmental justice areas across the Commonwealth. In addition, DEP introduced the advanced PennEnviroScreen mapping tool. This tool redefines environmental justice areas using 32 indicators related to environment, health, and socioeconomic factors.

Key highlights include the classification of projects into two categories: Public Participation Trigger Projects and Public Participation Opt-In Projects.

Covered Projects

Permit applications requiring enhanced public participation include NPDES industrial wastewater facilities, new major sources of air pollutants, waste permits for disposal facilities, mining permits, individual land application permits, and certain Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

Projects that may qualify for enhanced Opt-In status include plan approvals for significant air pollution sources, resource recovery facilities, sludge processing sites, large sewage treatment plants, transfer stations, recycling facilities, scrap metal facilities, landfills, medical waste incinerators, underground injection wells tied to Oil and Gas development, and other projects as determined by the community.

Starting September 16, the PennEnviroScreen tool becomes essential for permit applications. Small businesses and communities will be empowered to make informed decisions about environmental considerations.

Opportunity for Public Comment

DEP has stated that the Interim Final EJ Policy will come into effect as soon as it’s published in the PA Bulletin on September 16. This publication will kickstart a formal public comment period that runs until October 29.

Public comments can be made through DEP’s eComment portal once available.

The policy also empowers community members and DEP staff to request Enhanced Public Participation for projects not covered under Public Participation Trigger Projects. The PennEnviroScreen will guide these determinations, taking into account community concerns and environmental impacts.

Compliance & Enforcement

Furthermore, the policy outlines an Enforcement and Compliance Team to prioritize inspections and compliance actions in environmental justice areas. This initiative aims to ensure timely responses to violations, effective collaboration, and responsible enforcement.

Small businesses can learn more about environmental justice here.

Jeremy Hancher is the EMAP Program Manager located at the Widener University SBDC.  He holds over 15 years of experience in environmental compliance, environmental policy, and program management.  He is proud to be the team lead of the award-winning EMAP program which provides free and confidential environmental assistance to the Pennsylvania small business community in fulfillment of the requirements of the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act and Section 507 of the federal Clean Air Act.
In 2015, Jeremy was part of the team effort when EMAP was recognized by US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Outstanding Accomplishments by a State Small Business Environmental Assistance Provider in Providing Technical Environmental Assistance to the Small Business Community. Jeremy holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a certificate from the Wharton School.