Friday, September 19, 2008

AAEA-NY To Seek Environmental Justice Fix at DEC

AAEA will be seeking a change in the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Policy 29, Environmental Justice and Permitting to enhance the policy. AAEA is being prevented from utilizing the provisions of the regulation because one sentence states:

"Any application for a permit received after the effective date of this policy will be subject to the provisions of this policy."
CP-29 was issued on March 19, 2003 and AAEA-NY is an intervenor on a permit that was initiated at an earlier date. Clearly, environmental justice issues pursuant to the state's policy should not be excluded because of the time of the submission of the permit. We understand that there should not be a burden on the permit applicant to retroactively analyze EJ issues, but stakeholders should not be precluded from utilizing the policy if they want to do so. Moreover, in cases where the permit applicant would want to include environmental justice as instituted by CP-29, the prospective permittee should be allowed to do so. The policy makes provision for such a change by stating:

"This policy may be subject to change at the discretion of DEC."
The DEC continues:

"... the DEC expects that the policy will be revised regularly to account for new information in the area of environmental justice and other issues encountered during the implementation of CP-29."
Moreover, in areas where there are potentially serious negative environmental consequences, provision should be made to include CP-29. The public, DEC and specific stakeholders have a vested interest in assuring that vulnerable populations receive every possible avenue to share their concerns. DEC also states in CP-29 that the policy is:

"To ensure meaningful and effective public participation, this policy requires applicants for permits covered by this policy to actively seek public participation throughout the permit review process. Applicants are encouraged to consider implementing the public participation plan components prior to application submission."
Our ultimate goal is the same as that stated by DEC in CP-29 under Procedure V, Section M, Decision and Findings Requirement:

"Consistent with existing regulations, any adverse environmental impact related to an action must be avoided or minimized to the greatest extent practicable."

We also need to revisit Part V, Procedure, A, Applicability, 2:

"This policy shall not apply to permit applications for minor modifications, except as provided above, nor to renewals, registrations or general permits."
CP-29 should apply to renewals that did not consider environmental justice in the original process if the permittee, DEC and a stakeholder all agree that it would not be overly burdensome to the permitee.

No comments: