Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection Patrick McDonnell recently appointed Dr. Joylette Portlock, Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Executive Director, to serve as a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board, or EJAB. Her appointment comes at a time when the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is activating billions of public dollars for physical infrastructure, and the international community is calling for “ambitious, accelerated action…to adapt to climate change…[emphasis added].”
Dr. Portlock’s technical background and familiarity with Pennsylvania’s issues of environmental concern, including climate change, are based in prior work and experience at the local, state, and national level. She is well-prepared to provide informed input on Pennsylvania environmental justice community priorities, such as permitting and development practices, recommendations for monitoring and enforcement of regulations, ensuring environmental justice issues are integrated into more state agency practices and policies, and exploring more innovative opportunities to address environmental concerns in our most vulnerable communities.
The EJAB convenes decision-makers and thought-leaders representing a broad spectrum of sectors to provide guidance and direction to equitably address the impacts of climate change in Pennsylvania. Dr. Portlock and her colleagues will leverage their collective expertise with state leaders to create a path forward that supports environmentally overburdened and under-resourced communities across the Commonwealth.
On the EJAB, Dr. Portlock can underscore how local governments can enable fair, authentic public engagement systems while pointing to municipalities that are continuously addressing the structural needs of an equity-driven community engagement infrastructure. Sustainable Pittsburgh’s leadership on the Sustainable Pennsylvania Community Certification, a program grown and developed by Sustainable Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Municipal League, gives Dr. Portlock an informed perspective on the policy development process as well as local perspective.
Some say timing is everything, and Dr. Portlock joining the EJAB couldn’t come at a better time. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made “a dire warning about the consequences of inaction” against climate risks, elevating the importance of engaging all communities in the work to combat climate change. It also comes at a time when Pennsylvania is set to receive historic infusions of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which includes dozens of programs that can decarbonize multiple sectors, especially in communities that have been facing environmental injustices for decades. It also comes when local leaders from 35 Pittsburgh groups renewed a commitment to equity and racial justice, recognizing the urgency of developing inclusive and equitable climate solutions. Dr. Portlock’s appointment signifies a piece of that commitment at a critical time for working together with our policy makers for our environmental justice communities.