EPA Finalizes Environmental Justice Action Plan

The EPA recently announced it has finalized its Environmental Justice Action Plan for Land Protection and Cleanup Programs. 

Late last week, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management announced that it has finalized the agency’s “EJ Action Plan: Building Up Environmental Justice in EPA’s Land Protection and Cleanup Programs” (EJ Action Plan). The plan highlights projects, tools, and practices to be applied to the Superfund, Brownfields, Emergency Response, Solid Waste Management, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Corrective Action, and Underground Storage Tank programs. The approval comes roughly a week after the agency launched the new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. 

The EPA defined environmental justice as,

the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

The plan includes four main goals:

  1. Strengthening compliance with cornerstone environmental statutes: This includes developing a “Good Governance” process and referral list to help address follow-up actions on communities’ environmental concerns.
  2. Incorporating environmental justice considerations during the regulatory development process: This includes assessing impacts to pollution-burdened, underserved, and tribal communities when developing Office of Land and Emergency Management regulations, while developing tools to identify, track, and consider the implications of potential environmental justice-related factors throughout the Superfund process.
  3. Improving community engagement in rulemakings, permitting decisions, and policies: This includes providing earlier and more frequent engagement with pollution-burdened and underserved communities in carrying out Office of Land and Emergency Management programs, and increasing technical support and risk communication resources for communities through the Agency’s Technical Assistance Services for Communities program and various grants.
  4. Implementing the Justice40 Initiative: This includes providing direct and indirect benefits to underserved communities with grant application resources and in making grant award decisions, to the extent allowed by law.

Long-time readers of Conduit Street will know that environmental justice has been a topic of conversation in Annapolis recently. The 2022 Legislative Session saw the introduction of a bill aimed at making environmental justice a larger part of government decision-making processes. While the legislation ultimately fail, there has been an increase in more environmental justice focused policy at the federal level.

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