January 7, 2002
State releases recommendations on "environmental justice"
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released a series of recommendations to address concerns about how minority and low-income communities are treated in environmental decision-making.
The report was developed by an 18-person Environmental Justice Advisory Group which included representatives from environmental and "environmental justice" organizations, businesses (including The Business Council and several member firms), municipalities, and state agencies.
While the report focuses on the incorporation of "environmental justice" considerations into the environmental permitting process, it addresses other aspects of state environmental programs as well, including state financing of environmental projects.
Key recommendations include:
should issue public notices when it first receives a permit
application instead of when DEC determines that an application
is complete. This will give the public more timely notice
of pending projects.
should enhance its public-information efforts in minority
and low-income communities that could be affected by proposed
projects, and, in some cases, should make technical assistance
grants available to community groups to help them assess
potential environmental impacts.
- The state's Environmental Quality Review Act regulations should be amended to require: an assessment of whether the proposed project will have any significant, adverse, and disproportionate impacts on minority and low-income communities; and consideration of alternatives for avoiding or mitigating disproportionate environmental impacts identified as part of an environmental impact statement.
These recommendations will undergo a public review and comment period before the DEC makes any decision regarding implementation. DEC will accept public comments until Feb. 22, and will schedule public workshops to get public input.
Ken Pokalsky, The Business Council's Director of Environmental Programs, was on the advisory committee. He can be reached, with comments and questions, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-518/465-7511. The DEC press release, and a copy of the report in PDF format, can be found at www.dec.state.ny.us/website/ej/announcingreport.html.