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CCJ Applauds Governor Wolf, Lawmakers on Actions to Prioritize Environmental Justice

Posted Oct 28, 2021, by Lisa DePaoli

CCJ SQUARE rust

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Lisa DePaoli, lisa@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org, 724-229-3550, ext. 5  

WASHINGTON, PA — In response to Governor Wolf’s Executive Order to codify and expand the Office of Environmental Justice and the Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB), and planned legislation by the Black Caucus to both support the executive order and require an environmental impact statement on permits, the Center for Coalfield Justice released the following statement:

This Executive Order ensures that for years to come residents will be able to rely on the Office of Environmental Justice and Environmental Justice Advisory Board, which are critical to ensuring that the permitting and regulatory process include and are informed by community voices. Pennsylvanians have not had the benefit of having environmental impact statements, which help ensure that environmental impacts on  at-risk community members are considered in making permitting decisions. This legislation finally recognizes that people’s lives are impacted not just by one source of pollution, but by the combination of pollution sources in their community. It is time for our state to ensure that residents are not being overburdened by multiple pollution sources.

The planned legislation by the Black Caucus ensures a more transparent and open process before certain facilities such as landfills and sewage plants are built or expanded within environmental justice areas. The bill would require industry to prepare an environmental impact statement that includes any potential negative impacts a facility may have on an environmental justice area. After the completion of this process, the DEP will have the power to deny a permit application if it finds that the cumulative impacts of the facility on the community would be too great to justify its approval. 

Said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice,

These are critical first steps for environmental justice communities. The Center for Coalfield Justice has been advocating for over a decade to expand the definition of environmental justice areas, to assess cumulative impact, and to appoint an interagency council to examine the intersectional impacts from pollution on our environment, economy, housing, and health. We look forward to working to ensure these plans move forward, giving our communities the protections we deserve.

The Executive Order will also ensure that frontline communities can express their concerns to a formal office that is accountable to the people. This brings us closer to the achievement of environmental justice, where everyone can enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and has equal access to the decision-making process in order to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Author

  • Lisa DePaoli

    Lisa (Coffield) DePaoli joined the CCJ staff in 2018 and is now our Communications Director. She grew up in rural Washington County, has family in both Washington and Greene Counties, and has always loved animals and spending time outdoors. A first-generation and nontraditional college student, her deep interest in human beings and ecology led her to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. She has worked on research projects and taught at the university level in the U.S. and in field schools in Latin America. The knowledge and experience she gained increased her concern for environmental and social justice issues, which she believes are best addressed at the local level, or from the "bottom up," including the voices of those who are most impacted. Lisa works to understand issues from the local to the global, seeks to make a positive difference, and loves to talk to people about what interests or concerns them. In her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family, furkids, and friends, and walking in the woods with her dogs. Contact Lisa at lisa@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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