U.S. EPA Office of Land and Emergency Management Publishes Environmental Justice Action Plan

On September 30, 2022, the Office of Land and Emergency Management within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) published an action plan, “EJ Action Plan: Building Up Environmental Justice in EPA’s Land Protection and Cleanup Programs” (EJ Action Plan). EPA describes the EJ Action Plan as “a key component” of its implementation of President Joe Biden’s Executive Orders 13985 and 14008 to promote environmental justice (EJ).

The EJ Action Plan outlines four main goals — and the projects, tools, and practices EPA has stated that it intends to use to achieve those goals and advance EJ in the Superfund, Brownfields, Emergency Response, Solid Waste Management, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Corrective Action, and Underground Storage Tank programs across the Agency.

  1. Strengthen compliance with cornerstone environmental statutes in communities overburdened by pollution. To accomplish this, EPA intends to focus on developing “good governance processes,” enhancing accident prevention at facilities in or near communities with EJ concerns, reducing the frequency and severity of accidental releases, measuring compliance rates of facilities in EJ communities, and improving inspection rate of facilities.
  2. Incorporate EJ considerations during the regulatory development process. EPA plans to use EJ mapping tools to identify potentially vulnerable communities and areas that would benefit from increased funding and support and to strengthen community protections and enhance public participation, especially for communities with EJ concerns. EPA also will issue guidance to its regional offices with recommendations for incorporating community input and EJ considerations as part of remedial and non-time-critical removal action decisions.
  3. Improve community engagement in rulemakings, permitting decisions, and policies. As part of this effort, EPA intends to assess cumulative impacts of agency actions on communities as well as to identify communities with EJ concerns and provide those communities with more resources for effective engagement.
  4. Implement the Justice40 Initiative. The Justice40 initiative seeks to drive investment to underserved communities. To help accomplish this goal, through this EJ Action Plan, EPA intends to provide direct and indirect benefits to underserved communities with direct grants as well as by elevating EJ focus and priorities into state grant agreements.