Pennsylvania’s environmental regulator wants be a better resource to disadvantaged communities that have a high level of pollution.
It plans to release a draft version of its new environmental justice strategy next year.
Environment justice areas are low-income communities and communities of color that bear more than the average share of climate and environmental risk that can impact people’s health.
The Department of Environmental Protection defines those areas as those where at most 20 percent of the population is living in poverty or 30 percent of the population are non-white minority. There are no additional regulations regarding polluting facilities.
Allison Acevedo is the director of the Office of Environmental Justice. She said that they are currently working on an internal policy that will better guide oversight in these areas.
Acevedo explained that we are trying to find ways of both having some accountability and providing additional support for communities.
One part of that is posting a list with trigger permits so people living in affected areas will be able to see when a company plans move in.
The office plans to collaborate with an academic partner in order to refine the definitions of EJ areas.
Acevedo stated that we should also consider other environmental, demographic, and health factors. He also suggested that we should think about whether there are PA-specific data points that could be used.
The office will also create and publish a map that allows you to easily identify these indicators.
It will review its approach every five year in a strategic plan.
Acevedo said that she hopes to have more information on how the public can weigh-in on the policy in 2022.
Governor Tom Wolf signed an October agreement. Tom Wolf signed an Executive orderOfficializing the Office of Environmental Justice and making it more of a priority within DEP.
This story was produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration of WESA and The Allegheny Front with WITF and WHYY.