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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Environmental Justice Focus of Statewide Listening Tour

Environmental regulators are conducting a statewide listening tour during May focused on environmental justice. In Pennsylvania, an Environmental Justice (EJ) Zone is defined as a census tract where at least 20 percent of people live in poverty and/or at least 30 percent of the population is minority. The idea is to protect people in marginalized communities that often get stuck with a disproportionate share of industrial development in their backyards. Regulators will visit Lehigh County from 5 to 7 p.m., May 11, at the Allentown Public Library Community Room.

“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 to ensure that communities and regulated entities are connected and communicating.” says Carl Jones, director of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Environmental Justice. Permit applications for landfills or coal mines in EJ zones trigger more scrutiny from the DEP, but that's not the case with oil and gas permits. Last year, the DEP said it would reconstitute its policies around environmental justice, including how to define an EJ zone, and revisit which kinds of permits would trigger a review.

Location: 1210 Hamilton St., Allentown. For more information and a complete list of dates and locations, visit Tinyurl.com/PennsylvaniaListeningTour.

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