What is Environmental Justice? How does it impact you and your community? Federal, state and local agencies have embraced environmental justice (EJ), recognizing that releases to the environment have been shown to disproportionally impact neighborhoods. These agencies have adopted EJ policies to provide for equal protection from environmental and/or health hazards and equal opportunity involvement in the enforcement of environmental laws and policies and input into their development.
In April 2021, EPA Administrator, Michael Regan, directed all EPA offices to “strengthen enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes” in communities overburdened by pollution. To advance the integration of EJ policies into practice, , EPA is refocusing their attention on environmental justice for the 2021 – 2024 period with an allocated $50 million in funding and published strategies to advance their EJ goals. A detailed summary and copy of this new initiative can be found on EPA’s Environmental Justice webpage. This new initiative will provide for the following:
Inspections: Increase the number of facility inspections in overburdened communities.
Enforcement: Strengthen enforcement in overburdened communities by resolving past and current noncompliance with direct community benefits.
Community Engagement: Increase engagement with communities regarding enforcement cases in their community including press releases and public meetings.
How does EPA plan to meet their goals? They’ve published a list of tools available to the public, to guide and direct the core strategies of the EJ program. These tools include the following:
Policy – requirement to considering EJ during rulemaking actions.
Training & Workshops – internal and external training and workshops to ensure all staff are properly trained and informed.
Bi-weekly Environmental Justice Community Engagement Calls – scheduled calls to inform the public about EPA’s environmental justice work and maintain an open dialogue.
EJ Research Roadmap – new up-and-coming roadmap integrating EJ-related research across six national programs.
Technical Guidance – integration of science into providing a basis for action.
EJ Legal Tools – enforcement programs and their direct benefit to the communities including supplemental environmental programs.
EJSCREEN Tool – publicly available mapping tool that integrates environmental and demographic information to calculate an “index” indicating the risk/status of community overburden. Intended to be used in permitting and enforcement actions.
What does this mean for your state environmental agencies? A growing number of states are developing and adopting new laws to implement environmental justice programs. Ten states currently have EJ programs in place, with 13 states in pending legislation status. Examples of how states are implementing EJ programs are recently seen in New Jersey and Texas. New Jersey is requiring permit applicants to include an EJ analysis in permit applications, and further requiring that permits be approved/denied based on EJ impacts identified. Texas has recently approved new rulemaking extending and expanding the public notice and participation requirements for multiple environmental permitting actions. In September 2021, EPA Region 9 and CalEPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding detailing the collaborative efforts that the two agencies will pursue to advance and integrate EJ policy in their actions (a copy of the policy can be found here: EPA EJ Policy)
ALG has worked with our clients to assure that community outreach strategies are incorporated into strategic permitting plans and corporate EJ goals, so that the project and corporate objectives fully integrate into federal, state and local EJ policies. We urge you to get involved to understand and assist the EPA and states in their environmental justice goals. If you’d like more information on how we can be of assistance for your facilities or project, please , contact Adrienne Rosecrans at firstname.lastname@example.org or (281) 806-5827.
EPA, Lawrence Starfield (April 2021). Memorandum: Strengthening Enforcement in Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns.
To register for the bi-weekly EJ calls, please visit: EPA EJ Meetings