Shapiro Administration Expands Environmental Justice Protections with Updated Policy and Improved Mapping Tool
DEP aims to protect every Pennsylvanian’s Constitutional right to clean air and clean water and ensure communities most at risk from pollution and climate change have an equal seat at the table
Harrisburg, PA – The Shapiro Administration will adopt an updated Environmental Justice (EJ) Policy, which expands environmental safeguards throughout the Commonwealth, a milestone in updating a 20-year-old policy the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has used to guide protections for communities most vulnerable to environmental challenges. Environmental justice areas make up 20 percent of the entire Commonwealth.
“Pennsylvanians’ right to clean air and pure water is enshrined in our Constitution and I’m committed to protecting those rights – that’s why my Administration is elevating environmental justice work within DEP and implementing a new policy that will protect communities most at risk,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “The impacts of climate change aren’t limited to one community or another — they affect rural and urban areas alike, and every Pennsylvanian deserves to be able to let their children play outside without worrying about air quality and drink their tap water without fear of harmful chemicals. At my direction, Secretary Negrin and the Department of Environmental Protection will continue their important work to ensure every community, no matter their location, demographics, or wealth, has equal access to environmental protections.”
Following a public comment period, the Environmental Justice Policy is expected to be implemented on September 16, 2023. This updated policy will usher in deeper advancements for the Commonwealth’s environmental justice communities and is a critical benchmark towards the final EJ Policy, which is expected to be implemented by 2024. Additionally, DEP has developed an improved mapping tool to better identify EJ areas within the Commonwealth and has expanded the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) and elevated its leadership to a more senior position within the DEP for the first time in Pennsylvania history to better serve EJ areas.
“Through the process of creating this EJ Policy and mapping tool, DEP reached out to community leaders to get input. The policy calls for proactively bringing communities together, to help make people aware of the rights they have around the environment and protect those rights. The emphasis on the Environmental Rights Amendment in this administration is an exciting change in perspective for the agency,” said Rafiyqa Muhammad, a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board, the body charged with making written recommendations to the Secretary concerning policies, practices, and actions that DEP may implement to advance the goals of Environmental Justice.