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Environmental Justice

EJ 2020 Priority Areas

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Playground in foreground with nuclear smoke stacks in the backgroundRulemaking

Objective: Ensure environmental justice is appropriately analyzed, considered and addressed in EPA rules with potential environmental justice concerns, to the extent practicable and supported by law.

Background: EPA will implement the Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of a Regulatory Action and Technical Guidance on Assessing for Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis, two fundamental foundational documents developed over the past several years. We will institutionalize the consideration of environmental justice in EPA’s rulemaking process.

Strategies:

  • Implement and enhance rulemaking guidance;
  • Conduct training and other activities to promote information sharing and continuous learning among EPA rule writers and analysts;
  • Monitor implementation and evaluating progress (including a rigorous assessment of EJ analyses in rules every three years); and
  • Strengthen outreach and meaningful community involvement.

Leads: Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), Office of Policy (OP) and Region 7

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Permitting

Objective: Consider environmental justice concerns in all appropriate EPA permitting activities, and collaborate with state, tribal and local co-regulators, communities and permit applicants to identify and share tools, promising practices, and approaches.

Background: The environmental justice in permitting area builds off the successes and lessons learned during the implementation of Plan EJ 2014. The Agency developed guidance on conducting enhanced outreach to communities and each EPA Region developed and is implementing a Regional Implementation Plan for priority EPA-issue permits. EPA also provided recommended practices for business and industry on engaging neighboring communities to build trust and promote better understanding.

Strategies:

  • Implement the outreach tools developed under Plan EJ 201, and establish a framework and set of tools for strengthening consideration of environmental justice concerns in EPA permitting. 
  • Collaborate with state, tribal and local co-regulatory partners, communities, and permit applicants to share and promote use of tools, promising practices and approaches.  

Leads: Office of Air and Radiation (OAR), Office of General Counsel (OGC) and Region 2

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Compliance and Enforcement

Objective: Address pollution and public health burdens caused by violations of environmental laws in the nation’s most overburdened communities, strengthen the role of environmental justice in EPA’s compliance and enforcement work, and enhance work with our regulatory partners in overburdened communities.

Background: EPA will build upon the significant progress made under Plan EJ 2014 to weave consideration of environmental justice into the fabric of EPA’s compliance and enforcement program and will address pollution and public health burdens caused by violations of environmental laws in the nation’s most overburdened communities. We will do so by directing more enforcement resources to the most overburdened communities and strengthening the role of environmental justice in EPA’s compliance and enforcement work.

Strategies:

  • Direct more EPA enforcement resources to the most overburdened communities.
  • Work with federal, state, tribal and local governmental partners to pursue vigorous enforcement for violations in overburdened communities and leverage limited compliance resources by improving joint planning and targeting of enforcement activities.
  • Strengthen communication so enforcement cases can benefit from the knowledge of local communities, and empower communities with information about pollution and violations that affect them.
  • Increase the number of supplemental environmental projects and mitigation projects affecting overburdened communities.

Leads: Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) and Region 8 

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Science

Objective: Strengthen the scientific foundation for considering environmental justice in decision-making through research on decision support tools, adverse and cumulative impacts and risks, innovative monitoring and solution technologies.

Background: EPA’s efforts to strengthen the scientific foundation for considering environmental justice in decision-making will draw heavily from EPA’s Environmental Justice Research Roadmap, a blueprint for promoting integration of EJ-related research across EPA’s Office of Research and Development and communicating current research and strategic directions internally and externally.

Strategies:

  • Develop decision support tools for identifying and prioritizing environmental concerns, assessing cumulative impacts and evaluating mitigation options.
  • Increase understanding of the factors that influence environmental health disparities and develop methods and data to assess adverse and cumulative risks.
  • Develop innovative monitoring tools and technological solutions to environmental problems.
  • Address special focus areas: (a) promote tribal sustainability and well-being and (b) advance efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change in vulnerable communities.

Leads: Office of Research and Development (ORD) and Region 1

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States and Local Governments

Objectives: Achieve significant environmental results and meaningful public participation in the nation’s most overburdened and vulnerable communities in partnership with state and local co-regulators; and build the joint capacity of EPA, state and local co-regulators to address environmental justice concerns in our day-to-day program work.

Background: EPA’s work with our state partners and other co-regulators represents an important new area for EPA’s environmental justice efforts and reflects long-standing aspirations of environmental justice stakeholders. It recognizes that many states have developed effective tools to advance environmental justice and we can collectively expand our positive impact in overburdened communities by making our larger environmental enterprise more effective.

Strategies:

  • Work with co-regulators to reduce adverse impacts and promote meaningful involvement in overburdened communities through our regulatory work. 
  • Support peer-to-peer learning to identify best practices on how to address environmental justice concerns.
  • Foster cross-program discussion, planning and actions to build program capacity.
  • Work with co-regulators to establish shared program expectations and performance criteria and hold ourselves accountable to drive improvement where needed.

Leads: Office of Water (OW) and Region 5

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Federal Agencies

Objective: Strengthen collaboration and coordination on environmental justice issues among all federal agencies to amplify our collective impact in overburdened communities.

Background: After several decades of EJ practice, we recognize that environmental justice is more than about ensuring that environmental impacts do not disproportionately affect areas of persistent poverty, but also about creating opportunities to build healthy, wholesome, sustainable and resilient communities.  Three areas of focus involve the National Environmental Policy Act, goods movement (commercial transportation of freight), and community revitalization.

Strategies:

  • Address key environmental justice challenges in collaboration with government partners through the implementation of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) FY 2016-2018 Framework for Collaboration.
  • Seek opportunities to catalyze revitalization of overburdened communities through federal partnerships that connect protection of public health and the environment with economic development, land development, infrastructure investment and resiliency planning.
  • Foster the capacity of EPA and our sister federal agencies to meaningfully address environmental justice concerns through the use and continued development of environmental justice tools, resources, and ways to integrate environmental justice into programs and policies of all agencies.

Leads: Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) and Region 4

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Community-Based Work

Objective: Achieve meaningful and sustainable improvements in overburdened areas through the strategic deployment of Agency community-based and core programmatic resources in a cross-agency manner that helps to build the capacity of our community partners, and establishes community-based work as a routine means of achieving our mission.

Background: EPA has a significant history of working closely with communities, which has produced significant and often powerful results. Through EJ 2020, EPA seeks to apply the expertise and knowledge of all parts of the Agency towards making a more tangible difference in overburdened communities.

Strategies:

  • Improve on-the-ground results by incorporating environmental justice and community-based work as a part of how EPA core regulatory programs achieve our mission of protecting public health and the environment.
  • Expand the positive impact of EPA’s efforts by building stronger on-the-ground partnerships with communities and involving government, academia, business, philanthropy and other sectors.
  • Build the capacity of communities to take part in critical environmental and public health issues that impact them through the sharing of tools and other resources.

Leads: Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM), Region 3 and Region 10

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Tribes & Indigenous Peoples

Objective: Fulfill EPA’s commitment, in partnership with federally recognized tribal governments, to protect the environment and health of federally recognized tribes and indigenous peoples, and provide them access to the Agency’s decision-making processes, so that everyone has a safe and healthy environment in which to live, learn, work and play.  

Background: EPA seeks to maximize environmental and public health protection in Indian country and for indigenous peoples throughout the United States. This work will be guided by our full implementation of the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, and conducted in accordance with the EPA Policy for the Administration of Environmental Programs on Indian Reservations, the EPA Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes, EPA Guidance for Discussing Tribal Treaty Rights, E.O.12898, and relevant statutes, regulations and other policies. 

Strategies:

  • Strengthen consideration of federally recognized tribes’ and indigenous peoples’ issues, their involvement in EPA’s decision-making processes, and responsiveness to their concerns when EPA directly implements federal environmental programs.
  • Help federally recognized tribal governments build capacity and promote tribal action on environmental justice.
  • Reduce disproportionate impacts, improve engagement, promote meaningful involvement, and improve responsiveness to the environmental justice concerns of indigenous peoples.
  • Promote intergovernmental coordination and collaboration to address EJ concerns in Indian country and in areas of interest to tribes and indigenous peoples throughout the United States.

Leads: Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA) and Region 6

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