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Pa.'s new 'environmental justice areas'

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Monday, November 6, 2023
In today's edition: At-risk communities, campus crime, election prep, staffing standards, lots of money, sheriff debts, and nurse linked to deaths.

Pennsylvania has updated the criteria for how it defines “environmental justice areas,” communities that are more vulnerable to climate and health risks and that get special attention from the state.

Roughly 2.3 million people live in one of these areas under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s revision of the 20-year-old environmental justice policy, down from 3.7 million before.

Officials argue the update and the new way it is identifying these communities will help it prioritize resources and improve communication about permits and projects under the department’s purview.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. has updated how it defines an ‘environmental justice area.’ Here’s why that matters for at-risk communities.

THE CONTEXT: The policy, which took effect earlier this fall but could be further tweaked before taking full effect, outlines considerations the DEP should make when evaluating permit applications, administering grant money, and holding violators accountable.

Department officials hope to build trust among and improve communication with state residents, especially in areas where people historically have had little control over environmental decisions.


"It feels like we’re the Flint, Michigan of Pennsylvania."

—Clarissa Eggers, one of the East Dunkard Water Authority customers in Greene County whose claims of health issues caused by poor water quality have led to a lawsuit and Erin Brockovich social media mentions
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At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote in this election by visiting our Election Center website

» See how judges affect you and the issues you care about most

» Pa. Supreme Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

» Complete guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

» Who is Pa. Supreme Court candidate Carolyn Carluccio?

» Who is Pa. Supreme Court candidate Daniel McCaffery?

» Pa. Superior Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

» Pa. Commonwealth Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

» Who is Judge Jack Panella, and what is judicial retention?

» Who is Judge Victor Stabile, and what is judicial retention?

» Complete guide to who is on the ballot, when to vote & more 

» Everything you need to know about using a mail ballot 

» Elecciones Pa. 2023: Traducciones al Español

» RESULTS REVIEW: Join us, the New Pennsylvania Project, and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6-7 p.m. for a Q&A on the election results. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.


Along the Switchback Railroad in Jim Thorpe, via Karen A. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

a brown train cart on track covered in leaves
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.CLERY ACT: A student’s questions about campus crime and timely warnings sparked a U.S. Department of Education review of Penn State’s compliance with the Clery Act. A Penn State spokesperson told Spotlight PA's State College Bureau that university employees are working “to correct any misunderstandings."

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTION EVE: Tomorrow is Election Day. Spotlight PA has your guide to how to vote, where to vote, and everything else you need to know. (Find much more election coverage in the Election Info section above.) If you already voted by mail, know that Pennsylvania still lacks uniform rules for fixing disqualifying errors. More than 1,000 Philadelphia mail voters will have a chance to fix theirs, the mayor among them.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.STAFFING MANDATE: Today is the deadline to comment on proposed federal regulations that would impose new minimum staffing standards on nursing homes. WESA reports that Pennsylvania stakeholders are divided on whether the new rules are feasible. The federal regulations being proposed don't have any funding attached. 

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.BIG SPENDERS: National money is pouring into Central Pennsylvania school board races, with PennLive (paywall) reporting that one PAC has $506,000 to partly spend on commonwealth elections. Meanwhile, in the Central Bucks School District alone, The Inquirer (paywall) reports that groups backing and opposing candidates have raised more than $600,000 — a stunning amount for such an election. 

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SHERIFF'S SALE: The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office owes millions of dollars to people whose homes were auctioned off, an attorney told The Inquirer (paywall). The office is supposed to pay former homeowners any excess funds from sheriff’s sales within 40 days. Instead, The Inquirer reports they often find themselves stonewalled.
🏆 SEVEN QUESTIONS: Stay on top of the news last week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: Old election rules, 'illegal tax,' high-rank resignation, and claim to veep fame.

MORE CHARGES: A Pennsylvania nurse is facing additional charges including two counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder after prosecutors said she tried to kill 19 patients, CNN reports. 

RESCHEDULED: After postponing a historical Islamic art exhibit, The Frick Pittsburgh has rescheduled the premiere for August 2024. TribLIVE reports the original decision was criticized by local Muslim and Jewish groups.

CANNABIS UPDATE: Ohio voters will decide Tuesday if the Buckeye State will become the 24th to legalize recreational cannabis. A Pennsylvania House panel heard testimony on the issue last week.

ON THE LOOSE: Inspired by several alligator sightings, one state representative wants to increase the penalties for releasing certain exotic animals to up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine, per PennLive.

WOOLY PREDICTION: The wooly bear caterpillar has a reputation for predicting winters. But experts tell ABC27 that while the caterpillar's coloration can't do that, it can tell you other things about the bug.

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