DEC Releases Draft Policy for Evaluating and Averting Disproportionate Impacts of Permitting Actions on Disadvantaged Communities
Significant Milestone in Implementing New York Climate Act's Foundational Environmental Justice Provisions
Public Comments Accepted until Nov. 27, 2023
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of a new draft policy to implement environmental justice provisions of the historic Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act). The proposed Division of Environmental Permits Policy "Permitting and Disadvantaged Communities (DEP-23-1)" is available for public comment until Nov. 27, 2023, and provides guidance in DEC's permitting processes for considering impacts and existing burdens on New York's most vulnerable communities.
"New York State is putting the historic Climate Act into action and the draft policy released today is the latest step in preventing the exacerbation of existing pollution burdens on communities already shouldering significant and harmful climate impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution," Commissioner Seggos said. "I encourage New Yorkers to review and comment on the draft policy, which will help advance climate justice by creating a more equitable foundation for building stronger, healthier communities across the state."
DEC is seeking public comment on DEP-23-1, which would provide guidance during DEC's permitting process for how and when to consider impacts on disadvantaged communities under the Climate Act's Section 7(3). Section 7(3) requires that agency actions averts disproportionate burdens on disadvantaged communities and prioritizes reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and co-pollutants in these communities. DEP-23-1 describes the content of analyses required by DEC staff pursuant to the requirements of Section 7(3). It further describes the procedures DEC staff will follow when reviewing those analyses for conformance with the requirements of the Climate Act.
In March, New York's Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG), which includes representatives from environmental justice groups from across the state and representatives of several State agencies, finalized criteria to identify disadvantaged communities. The criteria considers environmental burdens and climate change risks, socioeconomic factors, and health vulnerabilities. Using a methodology that worked at the census tract level, the CJWG combined and ranked all indicators into an overall score. A list of disadvantaged communities, along with maps (leaves DEC's website), is available on the Climate Act website. The criteria and methods for identifying disadvantaged communities will be reviewed annually by the CJWG to ensure the State is accurately targeting emissions reductions and investments.
The draft policy released today for public comment is the latest of many regulatory and policy steps taken to implement the Climate Act, including finalization of Commissioner's Policy 49 (CP-49), "Climate Change and DEC Action," and Division of Air Resources Policy 21 (DAR-21), "CLCPA and Air Permit Applications," last year. New York State also completed the creation of the New York's Disadvantaged Communities Barriers and Opportunities Report (leaves DEC's website) to identify the barriers faced by disadvantaged communities and recommended actions for State agencies to design climate mitigation, adaptation, and clean energy programs with a focus on climate justice. Additional steps to implement the Climate Act include adopting limits on the statewide emissions of greenhouse gases of 40 percent by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050, completing the Value of Carbon guidance and updates, and issuing the annual greenhouse gas inventory, among other measures.
To further ensure equitable treatment in state permitting actions, last year Governor Kathy Hochul signed landmark environmental justice legislation to ensure that existing burdens in disadvantaged communities are considered in New York State's environmental decision-making beyond the Climate Act's requirements. DEC is developing updated regulations and guidance to implement the law which takes effect in December 2024.
New Yorkers are encouraged to submit comments on the draft policy by Nov. 27, 2023, to: Daniel Whitehead, NYS DEC - Division Environmental Permits, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-3254, E-mail: [email protected]
New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan
New York State's nation-leading climate agenda calls for an orderly and just transition that creates family-sustaining jobs, continues to foster a green economy across all sectors and ensures that at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities. Guided by some of the nation's most aggressive climate and clean energy initiatives, New York is on a path to achieving a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and economywide carbon neutrality by mid-century. A cornerstone of this transition is New York's unprecedented clean energy investments, including more than $35 billion in 120 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $3.3 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 165,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2021 and over 3,000 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, New York also adopted zero-emission vehicle regulations, including requiring all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold in the State be zero emission by 2035. Partnerships are continuing to advance New York's climate action with nearly 400 registered and more than 100 certified Climate Smart Communities, nearly 500 Clean Energy Communities, and the State's largest community air monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities across the state to help target air pollution and combat climate change.