On April 7, 2021, EPA issued a news release announcing Administrator Regan’s environmental justice directive. All EPA offices shall “clearly integrate environmental justice considerations into their plans and actions.”
According to the news release, “communities whose residents are predominantly of color, Indigenous, or low-income continue to suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels and the resulting adverse health and environmental impacts,” a concern that will be one of Administrator Regan’s “top priorities.”
Specific Steps in the Directive
- Strengthen enforcement in communities overburdened by pollution.
- Take immediate and affirmative steps to incorporate environmental justice considerations into EPA’s work.
- Take immediate and affirmative steps to improve early and more frequent engagement with pollution-burdened and underserved communities.
- Consider and prioritize direct and indirect benefits to underserved communities in the development of requests for grant applications and in making grant award decisions.
Companies Must Be Sensitive to Environmental Justice Concerns
Companies should appreciate how environmental justice concerns may affect permitting or enforcement matters. If a company suspects opposition to a permit may be based on environmental justice concerns, the company should explain in the permitting process how granting the proposed permit will benefit the underserved community, in addition to demonstrating minimal adverse impacts.
In enforcement matters, supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) will be increasingly available as part of settlements. If an enforcement matter involves allegations of harm to an underserved community, the company can propose a settlement that includes a SEP that enhances the well-being of that community.