In June 2016 the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) developed its policy to address equity and justice in the administration of its programs. Among other goals, this policy provided authority to integrate race, income, and health data into decision making and promoted collaboration with community partners. The policy requires environmental programs to consider equity and justice in monitoring, permitting, compliance and enforcement, and technical assistance and voluntary programs. In order to support the goals of the policy, the environmental programs developed a set of guidance documents, one of which is the department’s plan to ensure stakeholders in areas with known socio-economic and health-related disparities are given a fair opportunity to participate in environmental permitting processes that may have public health or environmental impacts. This guidance was published in May 2017.
Results to Date:
- Development of a GIS mapping tool containing socio-demographic and health data layers that identifies specific geographic areas in Colorado with the most significant socio-economic and health-related disparities (i.e., “priority areas”).
- Identification of a specific subset of permits considered “target permits,” which are those that have the highest potential for significant public health and/or environmental impacts (i.e., Title V operating permit issuances, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System discharges to receiving waters that exceed standards, sites where soil or groundwater contamination pose a human health exposure risk for carcinogens, and so forth).
- Development of a screening process to identify target permits within a priority area. Enhanced public outreach must be conducted for these permits.
- Development of an enhanced outreach strategy, including: mechanisms to purposefully identify and engage non-traditional community stakeholders; ways to encourage the regulated entity to engage with the community; improved processes to accept public comment; improved communication techniques; and ultimately, how to incorporate community input into a permit.
- Development of mechanisms to evaluate the impacts of enhanced outreach including questionnaires that can be distributed to the community, the source, and internal staff.
Ingrid Hewiston, MPH
Air Quality Planner, Air Pollution Control Division
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment