To begin, we feel the substantive revision of the Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy (EJPP) lacks several key elements that, without which, make it inherently unjust and prohibitively difficult for residents to have meaningful involvement in decision-making processes. The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s (NEJAC) criteria for “meaningful involvement” are:
- People have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health;
- The public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision;
- Community concerns will be considered in the decision-making process; and
- Decision makers will seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.
With regard to criteria #1, there is currently no opportunity in your policy for residents living near oil and gas extraction, production, processing or distribution sites to “participate in decisions…that may affect their environment and/or health.”
With regard to criteria #2 and #3, it appears DEP is under no obligation to adopt any of the public’s contributions or concerns into the agency’s decision-making process. In fact, the EJPP explicitly states that the “policies and procedures herein are not an adjudication or a regulation. There is no intent on the part of the Department to give these rules that weight or deference.”
With regard to criteria #4, we are including a list of cultural and/or socioeconomic barriers to accessing DEP or industry personnel, comprehending DEP- or industry-provided information, and attending meetings. These barriers prohibit meaningful involvement in the environmental justice process for our most vulnerable residents and communities.
These and other concerns are elaborated below.