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Environmental Management Assistance Program

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice (EJ) is an important concept that aims to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all individuals, regardless of their race, income, or background, in relation to environmental policies and regulations. For small businesses in Pennsylvania, understanding and addressing environmental justice issues can be crucial for maintaining compliance and fostering community relationships.

In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, there are specific considerations regarding environmental justice. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recognizes the need to prevent disproportionate environmental impacts on marginalized communities and has established guidelines to address environmental justice concerns.

Environmental Justice for Small Businesses

For small businesses, it is essential to be aware of the potential environmental justice implications of their operations. This involves understanding the demographic composition of the communities in which they operate and assessing whether their activities may disproportionately affect vulnerable populations.

To ensure compliance with environmental justice principles, small businesses should consider the following:

  1. Community engagement: Engage in open and transparent communication with the local community. Seek input from residents, community organizations, and environmental justice groups to understand their concerns and address them appropriately.

  1. Environmental impact assessment: Conduct thorough assessments of your business’s environmental impacts, taking into account potential air and water pollution, waste generation, and other factors. Identify and mitigate any disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged communities.

  1. Compliance with regulations: Familiarize yourself with Pennsylvania’s environmental regulations and guidelines, particularly those related to environmental justice. Ensure that your business is in compliance with all applicable laws and standards.

  1. Collaboration and partnerships: Consider collaborating with community organizations, environmental justice groups, or other small businesses to promote sustainable practices and address environmental concerns collectively. Sharing knowledge and resources can lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.

  1. Continuous improvement: Implement environmentally friendly practices and technologies to reduce the overall impact of your operations. This may include adopting pollution prevention measures, recycling initiatives, or investing in renewable energy sources.

By proactively addressing environmental justice concerns, small businesses in Pennsylvania can build stronger relationships with their communities, maintain compliance with regulations, and contribute to a more sustainable future for all stakeholders. It is advisable to consult with local regulatory authorities or environmental consultants for specific guidance tailored to your business and location.

  • EJ for Permit Applicants

    If your small business facility will be located within an EJ Community, DEP recommends following the steps:

  • Pennsylvania’s Environmental Justice Policy

    Pennsylvania DEP adopted an interim final Environmental Justice Policy on September 16, 2023. This policy aims to enhance permit application reviews and outreach in environmental justice areas. Key aspects include proactive education, community involvement, prioritizing environmental justice, identifying grant opportunities, and suggesting mitigation and restoration practices for projects impacted by environmental issues.

  • EJ Funding Opportunities

    The Pennsylvania DEP recognizes the importance of addressing environmental justice concerns and provides additional incentives for small businesses located in environmental justice areas through the Small Business Advantage Grant program.

    In addition to the regular benefits of the grant, small businesses in these areas may be eligible for enhanced funding and priority consideration. By focusing on businesses located in environmental justice areas, the DEP aims to support projects that directly benefit marginalized communities and help reduce environmental disparities.

    This targeted approach provides an opportunity for small businesses in these areas to access financial assistance for projects that promote sustainability, energy efficiency, and pollution prevention, ultimately fostering economic and environmental improvements within their communities.

    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.