PA Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Environmental Advocate


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Holly Cairns, PA Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Environmental Advocate

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PA Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Environmental Advocate

  1. 1. Holly Cairns, Director Department of Environmental Protection Office of Environmental Advocate PA AMR Annual Conference Aug. 9, 2013
  2. 2. • Environmental Justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Definition of Environmental Justice
  3. 3. • In December 1996, Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) filed a lawsuit against DEP. The lawsuit alleged that DEP’s waste facility permitting process violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and EPA’s regulations due to disproportionate impacts. History of EJ in PA
  4. 4. • The case received national attention and eventually reached the United States Supreme Court on the question of whether private citizens have the right to sue in federal court for violations of EPA’s regulations. • The Supreme Court dismissed the case without reaching a decision. • As a result, in 1999 DEP developed a statewide Environmental Justice Work Group (EJWG). • In 2001, the EJWG produced the Environmental Justice Work Group Report which recommended the establishment of the DEP Environmental Justice Advisory Board and the creation an office within DEP to address environmental justice issues. History of EJ in PA
  5. 5. • In 2002, DEP established the Office of Environmental Advocate (OEA) as a resource and a point of contact for addressing environmental concerns, and to foster community involvement. • Also, the Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB) was formed. • The group recommended the creation of environmental policy in Pa. based on respect and sensitivity towards everyone, and with special considerations to protect vulnerable communities. The goal was the inclusion of community members and advocates as partners and participants in the planning and decision-making processes. History of EJ in PA
  6. 6. • With the creation of the Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy in 2004, residents in EJ communities were granted enhanced opportunities to learn about major permit proposals in their community, in addition to the normal course of public involvement. • The policy provides EJ communities: • An informational public meeting • A plain language summary of the proposed application • Increased outreach and access to information on permit applications • The intervention of an advocate to facilitate communication between the industry, DEP and the community. History of EJ in PA
  7. 7. • Resources – Information – Legal – Understanding of – Environmental Science • Knowledge of the Permitting Process • Access to the regulatory and legislative process • Involvement in Local Political Processes (zoning, noise, etc.) Barriers for EJ Communities
  8. 8. • Any census tract in Pa. where: – 20 % or more of the individuals who live in that community are low-income. and/or – 30% or more of the individuals who live in that community are minorities. How DEP Identifies an EJ Area
  9. 9. Pa. EJ Areas
  10. 10. • Total of 851 EJ census tracts – 210 census tracts are 20% or greater low-income – 282 census tracts are 30% or more minority – 359 census tracts are both low-income and minority 2010 Census Tracts
  11. 11. When a new permit application is submitted, the e- FACTS system identifies if: • The type of permit is a “trigger permit” (Appendix A of the EJ Policy) • If the facility is located within a .5 mile radius from the proposed facility or activity boundary Identifying EJ Permits
  12. 12. Community Outreach • DEP strongly encourages applicants to meet with community stakeholders. Therefore, the applicant is notified early in the process when a permit application meets the criteria for EJ. • DEP produces and distributes plain language information sheets regarding the proposed activity. • DEP provides residents with information regarding proposed permit conditions. EJ Public Participation Policy
  13. 13. Public Information • DEP encourages the use of electronic, conventional and non- conventional methods of sharing information to community members. • Public Notices are written in terminology easily understood by the majority of readers within the Environmental Justice Area. • Notices are placed in publications widely read by residents in those areas, besides the legal notice section, and placed locally in areas of high visibility. Examples: local newspapers, community newsletters, church bulletins, public service announcements and notices on local radio and television stations, notices posted in areas of high foot traffic, notices to local environmental groups, and notices to local community centers. EJ Public Participation Policy
  14. 14. Public Meetings • Pre-application meetings: DEP strongly encourages applicants to meet with the community prior to submitting an application to the Department. • Informational meetings: DEP, along with the applicant, schedules an informational meeting within 30 days of receipt of the application. A public participation plan is also created. • Applicants’ role: Applicants are encouraged to participate in the meeting, many take the lead in holding the meeting. EJ Public Participation Policy
  15. 15. Summary of Application • DEP or the applicant provides a plain language summary of the application that explains the project in terms understandable to a majority of readers within an Environmental Justice Area. • The informational sheet addresses the purpose and location of the proposed activity or facility, and anticipated impacts. EJ Public Participation Policy
  16. 16. Document Availability Access to relevant information is vital to meaningful participation. • Identification of convenient locations where the public can review applications • Additional support on how to locate materials in a file • Moving toward more online access of applications EJ Public Participation Policy
  17. 17. Mining Communities • Significantly improved public participation during the permit review process. • Improved the communication process in EJ areas. • Helped mining EJ communities be a part of the process. EJ Public Participation Policy
  18. 18. OEA EJ Projects AMD and Brownfield Hill District Site
  19. 19. Other Interaction • Works with Brownfield redevelopment projects • Identify funding opportunities • Make connections and help creates partnerships in EJ communities OEA and EJ Areas
  20. 20. • Educate yourself and share information with others. • Get involved when new permits are coming into your community. • Sign up for DEP’s eNOTICE. • Learn about your rights and responsibilities. • Teach children why and how to care for the environment. • Understand the links between your health and the environmental conditions of your community. • Get involved in the regulatory process at the local, state and federal levels. How to Improve EJ Communities
  21. 21. • Education and Information • Community involvement • Advocacy • Community Organizing Resident’s Associations Business Associations Local government partnerships • Collaboration: residents, law enforcement, government, businesses, nonprofits, faith community & the media What Works?
  22. 22. Holly Cairns, Director Department of Environmental Protection Office of Environmental Advocate Phone: 717.787.6490