DEP to gather Pennsylvanians’ input on environmental justice
State Department of Environmental Protection 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.
In Williamsport, a session will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 20 at the Genetti Hotel, 200 W. Fourth St.
“The Office of Environmental Justice fulfills a critical role within DEP — ensuring that all Pennsylvanians, especially those who have historically been disenfranchised, are fully involved in the decisions that affect their environment,” McDonnell said. “Environmental justice embodies the principles that communities should not be disproportionally exposed to adverse environmental impacts. With these listening sessions, I want to hear how we can improve on our responsibility.”
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.
“We want to move beyond just the census tract boundaries and make sure we’re really considering the needs of people and the role of public participation,” said Carl Jones, director of DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice. “We want to ensure that communities and regulated entities are connected and communicating.”
DEP will solicit feedback from the listening sessions about improving how public feedback is received, and ensuring that communities are sufficiently engaged with the decision-making process and companies involved.
“DEP has three goals for the Office of Environmental Justice: minimizing adverse environmental impacts, empowering communities, and fostering economic opportunities,” said Jones. “We want to hear from Pennsylvanians about how we can meet those goals.”
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.