DEP to Gather Pulic Input on Environmental Justice..Show Up and Request More Attention for our Coalfield Communities

Adapted from a Press Release from the PA DEP-Prepared by Robert E. Hughes, EPCAMR Executive Director

The Office of Environmental Justice was established as a point of contact for Pennsylvania residents in low income areas and areas with a higher number of minorities. Its primary goal is to increase communities’ environmental awareness and involvement in the DEP permitting process. To that end, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell is hosting nine roundtables across the state over the next two months to meet with residents and hear their perspectives on environmental justice.

Robert E. Hughes, EPCAMR Executive Director, goes on to ask, “Why isn’t there any meetings in the Coal Region? Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Nanticoke, Shamokin, Pottsville, Mahanoy City?? We don’t believe that our coalfield communities are being served properly and equitably. Our communities are more than a definition of environmental justice. Our communities have been living with too many environmental injustices due to past mining practices and mine water pollution from AMD. Make your voice heard, even if you can’t travel all the way to the Allentown area, which is an injustice in itself, when transportation and access to these types of roundtables are convened in places that are less than convenient to those with limited ability to get to the meeting locations. Comments can be submitted by the public however, if you can’t make the meeting. Please consider making your voice heard and talk about what’s going on in our communities and what types of services, technical assistance, education, awareness, partnerships, and funding is needed to make things better.”

The tour will focus on engaging residents and leaders in DEP’s decision-making process, and involving residents in communities that may not fit the traditional definition of an environmental justice area — which is based on minority population and income levels in census tracts. Topics to be covered include:

  • What environmental justice concerns are most pressing in your community?
  • Do you feel that the current definition of an environmental justice community (20% poverty and/or 30% minority) properly represents the needs of your community and the Commonwealth at large?
  • Do you feel the DEP is engaged with marginalized communities to ensure that they have a voice in the decision making process? How can the DEP be more engaged with these communities?
  • What tools have you used to find out information on DEP permitting/enforcement actions?
  • What ways can the DEP be more effective at sharing information with the public?
  • How can the DEP be more effective at receiving public input?
  • What resource(s) is your community lacking that the DEP can provide that would assist in efforts to ensure environmental equity?
  • What additional steps can be taken by the Department to effectively reach out to these vulnerable communities to ensure that their concerns are taken into consideration?

Bear Creek AMD Seeps

The listening sessions will take place throughout April and May. Additional details are available at http://www.dep.pa.gov/PublicParticipation/OfficeofEnvironmentalJustice/Pages/default.aspx

•    Greene County – April 12
•    Pittsburgh – April 13
•    Williamsport – April 20
•    Erie – April 27
•    Harrisburg – May 2
•    Allentown – May 11
•    Lancaster – May 15
•    City of Chester (Delaware County) – May 23
•    Philadelphia – May 25

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