Environmental Justice and Enforcement Guidelines
- EPA National EJ Page
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
- New York Department of Environmental Conservation
- Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- EJ Geographic Assessment Tool
- Internet Mapping Tools
- Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)
- Enforcement and Compliance History Online
Environmental Justice Coordinator
Environmental Justice Assistant
4.2.1 Initiation of Enforcement Actions
4.2.2 Processing of Enforcement Actions
4.2.3 Negotiation and Settlement of Enforcement Actions
4.2.4 Supplemental Environmental Projects
4.2.5 Actions Involving Indian Nations
These guidelines are applicable to civil regulatory enforcement. They are intended to assist the Region's enforcement staff to (i) identify EJ communities; (ii) recognize and determine when EJ issues may arise in a particular civil regulatory enforcement matter; and (iii) consider in addition to enhanced public participation other options to address EJ concerns in the initiation, processing, and resolution of an enforcement matter. Actual EJ communities, by definition, bear an unfair burden due to pollution, and affected residents and children may experience disproportionately high and adverse health effects. Therefore, it is important to provide equitable inspection coverage in low-income and minority areas. It is always important to return violating facilities to compliance as quickly as possible.
The Region will continue to provide compliance and enforcement information to those communities located in low income and/or minority areas. In particular, the Region will coordinate on-site compliance visits and seminars to specifically address EJ concerns. Further, EJ concerns will be considered in targeting single and multimedia inspections. Notwithstanding, the Region will respond to complaints from potential EJ communities, as well as all segments of the population, with the appropriate inspection.
Enforcement matters, including those which arise in environmental justice communities often present unique challenges. It is also important for enforcement personnel to bear in mind that the level of community interest may vary depending upon the specifics of the case and the nature of the potential violations. There is no single technique, appropriate, in every matter for determining how to keep community members informed and solicit their views. It is expected that by utilizing existing enforcement standard operating procedures and these guidelines, Regional enforcement staff should, if appropriate:
- identify potential EJ communities and enforcement matters involving such EJ communities;
- ensure that violations that involve identified EJ communities are handled in an expeditious and thorough manner;
- keep the community informed of developments; and
- as appropriate, seek early community input regarding the resolution of such matters.
Enforcement staff should conduct an initial screening (See Section 2.2.1) during the preparation of each regulatory civil enforcement matter to determine if one or more of the following criteria are met:
- Resolution of the proposed enforcement matter is likely to require an extended compliance schedule of one year or more, or
- The proposed enforcement matter is likely to yield a penalty of $100,000 or more.
Where one or more of the above criteria are met, enforcement personnel should consider enhanced public outreach throughout the three stages of the enforcement process as discussed below. It is recognized that not all cases will be the same. Therefore, the enforcement staff should exercise judgement concerning the kinds of activities that are appropriate to the case, recognizing their responsibility under the EO and Agency's policy to incorporate EJ into all aspects of EPA's programs when authorized to do so.
EPA often issues a press release to announce a major enforcement action. For EJ matters, the enforcement staff should consult with CD as to the appropriateness of providing additional information to local, affected communities, taking into account both the enforcement sensitivities related to the action and the level of community interest. At the initiation of enforcement actions that involve EJ concerns, in addition to coordinating with the EJ Coordinator, enforcement staff should consider:
- contacting Region 2's Communications Division (CD) and working with the appropriate CD staff assigned to assist enforcement staff on a particular matter;
- working with CD to develop a communications plan that is appropriate for the particular enforcement action;
- whenever possible and appropriate, providing notice to individuals and groups who are expected to have an interest in the action, this should be done in consultation with CD which will assist in customizing notice to particular groups and individuals who may be interested in the action.
After enforcement actions have been initiated, the affected community and other interested persons or groups should be kept informed of the progress of an enforcement action, as appropriate and pursuant to the Communications Plan developed pursuant to Section 5.2. For cases that reach a hearing (either administrative or judicial), the enforcement staff should, as appropriate, keep concerned citizens informed of significant milestones in the litigation process.
Settlement discussions are a particularly sensitive phase with respect to community outreach. The specific terms of settlement discussions are generally confidential and ordinarily should not be discussed with the general public. Community input will be solicited, as appropriate, in enforcement action resolutions as discussed below, particularly if major SEPs (Section 4.2.4) or compliance activities may be involved.
- Penalties In calculating a penalty, enforcement should employ EPA recognized Enforcement Response Policies. Consistent with the relevant penalty policies, the enforcement team staff should ensure that the penalty amount reflects the seriousness of the violation given existing burdens in the community.
- Injunctive Relief Where a facility cannot immediately come into compliance, the schedule for compliance may be a matter of intense public concern. Similarly, depending on the nature of the case, other aspects of injunctive relief may have an impact upon the community.
To the extent possible and appropriate in a given case, the enforcement staff should seek to include in the settlement of the action provisions benefiting the community, such as:
- to encourage the responsible party to agree to provide information or other outreach to the community;
- to facilitate citizen information committees for ongoing community involvement in longer-term remedies;
- to foster participation from the affected community in monitoring compliance at the facility; or
- to provide technical assistance to the community.
The Agency's 1998 "Supplemental Environmental Projects Policy" actively encourages the use of creative settlement approaches in enforcement actions. Such approaches may have particular applicability where violations have been identified in communities disproportionately impacted by environmental problems. As always, the enforcement staff have discretion in determining how to settle cases consistent with applicable EPA policy and guidance. The SEP policy encourages the Regions to obtain SEPs which promote pollution prevention and remedy environmental damage to reduce long-term exposures within affected communities.
The enforcement staff should encourage, whenever appropriate in discussions with the violating facility, the development of SEPs. Where appropriate, the affected community should be involved in development of the SEPs. Any SEP should be developed in accordance with the Agency's SEP Policy. The degree of community involvement will depend on the range of potential allowable SEPs feasible for the enforcement action.
Whenever a potential enforcement action involves a federally-recognized Indian Nation in any way, in addition to referencing this Interim Policy, enforcement staff should be advised that appropriate Agency guidance must be followed to ensure that EPA acts consistent with its trust responsibility and "government-to- government" relationship with the Indian Nations. This policy applies when a facility is:
- located within or near Indian country (even if owned and operated by non-Indians); and
- owned or operated by an Indian Nation.
Situations involving any of these factors should be brought to the immediate attention of Region 2 Indian Coordinator .