Thursday, September 22, 2022

DEP Interviews EJ Champion James Rebarchak In Latest Environmental Justice Newsletter

latest Environmental Justice newsletter from the Department of Environmental Protection includes an interview with EJ Champion James D. Rebarchak--

Jim Rebarchak is DEP’s Air Quality Program Manager in the Southeast Regional Office.  He has worked for DEP since 1990 – 32 years of service to the Commonwealth.

-- Describe the ways environmental justice is considered in air quality matters by DEP.

As the Program Manager, it is my responsibility to oversee permitting, as well as compliance and enforcement. EJ is incorporated into my responsibilities in a variety of ways. 

First, I am working to educate our Permit Engineers and Field Inspectors to first recognize the facility and the area that they will be working in. 

If a facility that is seeking a permit or already has a permit is located in an EJ area, then the staff are being asked to include this information in their review memos and inspection reports, and to think about whether there policy considerations like enhanced public participation that we should consider or if the facility caused a violation, are we explaining to the owner/operator how the violation may be affecting the community. 

In the end, communications are key. Are we having the right conversations with owners and operators in the communities so they can lessen their impacts?

-- When did you first become aware of environmental injustice issues in your work with DEP?

I can say going back to when I first started back in the 90’s, one of the environmental justice communities in the Southeast Region, the city of Chester, had a number of additional facilities moving into their community. 

They had a large municipal waste incinerator going in, along with a sewage sludge incinerator and a medical infectious waste incinerator all within a very small area. 

Part of my job was listening to the community and what they were being exposed to, which is how I originally got involved in working on environmental justice considerations in my work with DEP. 

Then I began to try to understand what the Department could do to address environmental injustice in these communities.

-- What have you learned about how to effectively address environmental justice in your work?

Building relationships with individuals within the community is most important. I became the Air Quality Program Manager in 2010, and I started to attend the Chester Environmental Partnership where I met Reverend Dr. Horace W. Strand. 

Working with them and building our communication by hearing their concerns and trying to address them. 

Building a rapport with the communities that have environmental justice issues going on, helping them address the issues when we can, and always asking, “Is this what the community wants?”

-- Do you have any advice for young professionals looking to become engaged in environmental justice work?

Seek out community groups in environmental justice areas. Any community group is always in need of volunteers. Start building those relationships where you can then use your knowledge to help those communities. 

Seek out the community groups closest to where you go to school or where you grew up because you will have a natural connection.

Feature Articles

The newsletter also includes articles on--

-- Environmental Education Grants Webinar Sept. 27

-- New Whole Home Repairs Program

-- PA Sustainability Summit Oct. 3-7

-- DEP Public Participation Trigger Permits Now On DEP’s Website

-- Grant Programs Now Accepting Applications

-- National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Meeting Sept. 28

-- Federal Environmental Justice Index - Ranking Cumulative Health Impacts Oct. 12 Webinar

Click Here to read the entire newsletter.  Click Here to sign up for your own copy.

For more information on this program, visit DEP’s Office Of Environmental Justice webpage.  Questions should be directed to Director Justin Dula, 484-250-5820 or send email to:

[Posted: September 22, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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