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African American Task Force looks at environmental justice

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State lawmakers plan to continue their focus on environmental justice in the coming year.

The African American Task Force seeks to create better outcomes in disadvantaged communities.

The Infrastructure and Environment subcommittee received an update on efforts to mitigate and control PFAS chemicals in the state.

Gov. John Carney recently signed into law a new order requiring state agencies to develop a maximum allowable level of PFAS in the water.

Director of Health Systems Jamie Mack says we should expect initial drafts of those levels by the end of the year.

“I think we’re likely to use a multi-tiered approach, so that we do establish the MCL; and that will set the requirements that above this level you need to install treatment, you need to sample at this frequency, things like that,” says Mack. “But below that level, I think we’re also gonna look at — are there any increased frequency of monitoring or perhaps recommending treatment of systems.”

Mack says it’s difficult to establish an allowable level because the EPA has yet to do so itself, and every state that has one is different.

Committee members also discussed potential recommendations to make to the full task force.

One potential action item would be a ban on the use of carbon offset credits in disadvantaged communities.

Such credits allow companies to pay for credits on a market allowing them to emit more pollutants than typically allowed.

DNREC’s Chief of Staff Greg Patterson says his agency doesn’t have an opinion either way right now, but says it could be complicated to implement such a ban.

“How do you define these communities? If you’re going to go down this road then you’ve gotta come up with — what is the definition, what are the boundary lines? How far away do you have to be, does the facility have to be considered not eligible,” Patterson says.

Subcommittee members are also looking at ways to better educate minority communities on environmental justice topics. Proposals include requiring seats for environmental justice advocates on state environmental appeals boards and making more testing data available to the public in an easy to understand way.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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