Saturday, October 28, 2023

DEP Adds Details On The 3 Upcoming Hearings On Interim Final Environmental Justice Permit Review Policy

The Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled three more hearings on its Interim Final Environmental Justice Permit Review Policy before the November 30 end of the public comment period.

DEP added the details of the hearing in a notice in the October 28 PA Bulletin--

-- November 16: Virtual hearing from Noon to 2:00 p.m.

-- November 28: Howard J. Burnett Center, Washington & Jefferson College, 292 East Wheeling Street, Washington, Washington County from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

-- November 30: La Toxica Event Space, 1447 Lehigh Street, Allentown, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Individuals wishing to reserve time to present testimony at a meeting must contact Jennifer McLuckie at (717) 772-5633 or at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing.

Details on how to register and where the in-person hearings will be are coming soon on DEP’s Environmental Justice Policy Revision webpage.

Interim Final Policy In Force

Although DEP is now accepting public comments on the Interim Policy, “A DEP permit applicant who files a permit application on or after September 16 must use the new PennEnviroScreen tool to determine if the permit’s facility is in an environmental justice area.”

The PennEnviroScreen will redefine environmental justice areas using 32 environmental, health and socioeconomic indicators that are spelled out in a 113-page PennEnviroScreen Methodology Document.

Interim Policy Overview

The Interim Final EJ Policy designates both Public Participation Trigger Projects [permit applications] that are required to go through the enhanced process and Public Participation Opt-In Projects DEP may apply this policy to at its discretion.  [Appendix C]

In addition to the project footprint itself, the Interim Policy defines an Area of Concern around the location of a Trigger or Opt-In Project as measuring one-half mile in all directions.

Public Participation Trigger Projects 

These permit applications include--

-- NPDES industrial wastewater facilities of 50,000 gallons per day or more

-- Air Permits:

     -- New major sources of hazardous air pollutants or criteria pollutants

     -- Major modification of a major source

-- Waste Permits: Landfills or other disposal facilities; Transfer Stations; commercial incinerators and other waste processing facilities; Commercial hazardous waste treatment, storage, disposal facilities; Major modifications of these listed facilities

-- Mining Permits: Underground and Surface coal mines; Large industrial mineral surface and underground mines; Coal refuse disposal and reprocessing; Large coal preparation facilities; Revisions to these listed facilities; Using biosolids for reclamation

-- Individual Permits For Land Application of Biosolids

-- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: New or expanded more than 1,000 animal units; CAFOs of greater than 300 animal units in Special Protection Watersheds; CAFOs with direct discharge to surface waters 

Public Participation Opt-In Projects

“DEP may exercise its discretion and expertise to apply this policy to additional projects and associated permits, authorizations, or approvals.”  

“Community members or DEP staff may request projects not specified as Public Participation Trigger Projects, be designated as Opt-In Projects for which Enhanced Public Participation will be incorporated in the DEP application reviews.” 

“Community members may utilize the Opt-In Project Request Form to request DEP designate a proposed project for Enhanced Public Participation in accordance with this policy.” 

“When making a determination whether to designate a project as an Opt-In Project, DEP will utilize the PennEnviroScreen and consider identified community concerns, present or anticipated environmental impacts, and how those anticipated impacts relate to the existing community environmental burden.”

“Examples of projects that could warrant heightened consideration of Opt-In status include:

-- Plan approvals at a major source of air pollution

-- Resource recovery facility or incinerator

-- Sludge processing facility, combustor, or incinerator

-- Sewage treatment plant with a capacity of more than 50 million gallons per day

-- Transfer station or other solid waste facility, or recycling facility intending to receive at least 100 tons of recyclable material per day

-- Scrap metal facility

-- Landfill, including, but not limited to, a landfill that accepts ash, construction or demolition debris, or solid waste

-- Medical waste incinerator

-- Underground Injection Wells Associated with Oil and Gas development

-- Unconventional Oil and Gas Development (Drill & Operate permits, changes in use;


-- Other projects as identified by the community

“In addition, any permits not specified in this Policy as trigger permits or determined to be an Opt-In permit including but not limited to General Permits, renewals or revisions, may serve as Opt-In Permits if DEP determines they warrant special consideration.”

Inspections, Compliance & Enforcement

The Interim Final Policy also includes provisions establishing priorities, at DEP discretion, for inspections and compliance actions within environmental justice areas.

“The Department plans to form a Enforcement and Compliance Team to prioritize inspection and monitoring at sites which have multiple authorizations, multiple on record complaints, habitual violations, sites with high volume generation or unique permit conditions, EJ communities, and sites of significant geographic location and to ensure timely and appropriate responses to violations, implement an efficient criminal referral protocol, and ensure effective collaboration.”

With respect to calculating civil penalties, “DEP interprets impacts to the environment or the public health and safety at an EJ Area to be a relevant factor in the calculation of a penalty amount for a violation and may include a dollar figure in the penalty amount for such a violation provided there is adequate evidence to support a factual finding that the violation caused the harm and the penalty amount fits within the statutory limits.”


DEP’s Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy uses the online PennEnviroScreen tool to define environmental justice areas using 32 indicators.  Those indicators include--

-- Environmental Exposures: ozone, fine particulate, diesel particulate, toxic air emissions, toxic water emissions, pesticides, traffic density, compressor stations, children’s lead risk;

-- Environmental Effects: Conventional oil/natural gas wells, Unconventional oil/natural gas wells, proximity to railroads, land remediation, hazardous waste and storage sites, municipal waste sites, coal mining, impaired lakes and streams, abandoned mining concerns, flood risk;

-- Sensitive Populations: asthma, no health insurance, cancer, disability, heart disease;

-- Socioeconomic Population: low educational attainment, linguistic isolation, housing-burdened low-income households, poverty, unemployment, race, age over 64, age under 5.

Click Here for the PennEnviroScreen ToolClick Here for the Methodology Document.  

Denial Of Permits

DEP staff have said in several forums the goal of the Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy is to can enhance opportunities for participation, share more information, provide information in appropriate languages, teach people how to effectively submit comments, hold a hearings or information sessions, but they recognize DEP can not deny a permit solely on environmental justice grounds without additional statutory authority.  Read more here.

At a June 5 hearing by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Fernando Treviño, DEP Special Deputy for Environmental Justice and Justin Dula, Director DEP Office of Environmental Justice testified in support of House Bill 652 (Bullock-D- Philadelphia)  requiring environmental impact reports on certain electric generation, waste management, sewage treatment and other facilities that are a major source of air pollution proposed in already burdened communities.  Read more here.

House Bill 652 would give DEP the statutory authority to deny a permit application in any environmental justice area based on the “cumulative environmental impacts.”

On June 6, the House Committee amended and reported out House Bill 652 and it is now in the House Rules Committee.  Read more here.

On August 16, Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia) introduced similar legislation in the Senate-- Senate Bill 888.

For more information on the Interim Policy and the PennEnviroScreen tool, visit DEP’s Environmental Justice Policy Revision webpage.

Reference Links:

-- DEP’s Environmental Justice Plan


-- The Allegheny Front: DEP’s New Environmental Justice Policy Includes More Communities Impacted By Pollution

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Mapping The Hydrogen Hub In The Midst Of DEP’s ‘Environmental Justice’ Communities On PennEnviroScreen 

-- WHYY: Chester Residents Unhappy With Taking Philly’s Trash, Speak Out At City Council Hearing

-- PA Capital-Star Guest Essay: RGGI Is About Climate Change, But Also About Environmental Justice - By Clean Air Council

Related Articles:

-- EPA Awards Nearly $5.3 Million For Environmental Justice Projects In PA Communities  [PaEN]

[Posted: October 28, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner