EPA Releases Draft Environmental Justice Plan

On January 5, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Environmental Justice Action Plan. The Action Plan outlines measures that have been or will be implemented by EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) to address environmental justice (EJ) concerns in OLEM programs, including Superfund, emergency response, and risk management. (more…)

Head of DOJ Environmental Division Announces Enforcement Priorities

Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), delivered remarks at the American Bar Association’s National Environmental Enforcement Conference on December 14, 2021. He provided insight into what DOJ plans to prioritize in environmental enforcement, centered on criminal enforcement, climate change, and environmental justice.

Kim emphasized that the purpose of enforcement is to ensure that businesses are properly incentivized to comply with the law through deterrence and to provide a level playing field, while protecting public health and the environment. He noted that DOJ has prioritized fighting corporate crime and is revising applicable polices, so ENRD will consider pursuing potential environmental and non-environmental crimes, as well as a business’s environmental and non-environmental track record in prosecution decisions.

Kim focused on methods of sector-wide enforcement, citing the Petroleum Refinery Initiative that involved settlements covering 112 refineries in 37 states since 2000.  Kim also expressed an interest in more penetrating identification of all involved parties within a business, as well as in the full supply chain, where relevant. This focus could be especially impactful for importers of chemicals, pesticides, or wood products.

With these various tools in mind, Kim cited climate change and environmental justice as the two highest priority issues.  For climate change, he indicated greater enforcement for air emissions from petrochemical plants and from facilities with refrigeration systems.  For environmental justice, he provided a general assurance that ENRD is paying greater attention to potential violations in communities of color and low-income communities that may be disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards and harms.

DOJ Launches First Environmental Justice Investigation Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

On November 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its first environmental justice investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. DOJ announced that the investigation initiated by DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, with the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama, will focus on two issues. (more…)

EPA Targets PFAS and Environmental Justice in Proposed Effluent Guidelines

On September 8, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) released Preliminary Effluent Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15), which outlines the Agency’s 2020 annual review of effluent guidelines and pretreatment standards (ELG), identifies new or existing industrial categories for ELG rulemaking, and provides an update on the Agency plan to improve its annual review and biennial planning process. (more…)

EPA Publishes Landmark Study on the Effect of Climate Change on Socially Vulnerable Populations

On September 2, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) released a 100-page report, entitled “Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States,” that analyzes the impact of projected climate change on four population groups within the United States. This report represents the Agency’s latest effort to further the Biden administration’s agenda to advance environmental justice and address the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations, as outlined in Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. (more…)

Environmental Justice Pollution Cleanup Act to Be Reintroduced

On June 11, 2021, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) announced the reintroduction of the Environmental Justice Pollution Cleanup Act of 2021 – a bill first introduced in 2020, which would provide for significant investment in environmental justice communities to address the health and environmental effects of pollution. This marks the latest of a series of proposed legislation addressing environmental justice. In March 2021, we reported on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which allocated $100 million in funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for programs, including the retrofitting or replacement of diesel engines or equipment, cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields sites, and technical assistance for small community water systems.

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WHEJAC Offers Key Environmental Justice Recommendations

On May 13, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC or the Council) voted and agreed on recommendations to advance the Biden administration’s environmental justice (EJ) agenda. Housed within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the WHEJAC was established by Executive Order (EO) 14008 to recommend to the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council how to address current and historic EJ issues.

WHEJAC adopted recommendations of the three working groups: the Justice40 Initiative (Justice40), EO 12898, and Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.

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