EPA Announces Second Update to EJSCREEN: EJSCREEN 2.1

On October 11, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) announced the second update to the Agency’s environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool — EJSCREEN 2.1. EPA uses the tool to identify areas that may have higher environmental burdens and inform several Agency functions, including permitting, enforcement, outreach, and compliance. This is the fourth EJ mapping or screening tool launched or updated this year by the Biden administration, following the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (DHHS) Environmental Justice Index (EJI), EPA’s EJSCREEN 2.0, and the White House’s Climate and Economic Justice Tool.

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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).

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U.S. EPA Establishes New Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights

On September 24, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the establishment of a new national program office, the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, which will span all 10 EPA regions and be supported by more than 200 staff. The new office will be led by a U.S. Senate-confirmed Assistant Administrator, who will be announced at a later date. According to the EPA, the new office will address environmental justice matters by providing grants and technical assistance, enforcing federal civil rights laws, developing and implementing environmental laws, regulations, and policies, and providing support in alternative dispute resolution.

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New York State Launches First-of-its-Kind Statewide Mobile Air Monitoring Program

As previously reported, the second quarter of 2022 ushered in a bevy of federal action by the White House, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services to address environmental justice through numerous agency functions.

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Quarterly Review: Biden Administration’s Advancement of Environmental Justice

In the second quarter of 2022, the Biden administration took steps to implement the President’s whole-of-government environmental justice (EJ) strategy. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ or the Department), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency), and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) each announced initiatives to address EJ in a variety of agency functions. Additionally, the White House provided an update on funding available to disadvantaged communities. (more…)

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EPA Launches Investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

Under the Biden Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA” or the “Agency”) has announced the advancement of environmental justice and civil rights as an Agency goal. For fiscal years 2022–2026, the Agency has included in its FY 2022 – FY 2026 EPA Strategic Plan (“Strategic Plan”) the objective to promote environmental justice and civil rights at the federal, tribal, state, and local levels. Within that plan, the EPA noted that the Agency “ha[s] already seen an increase in external civil rights cases being referred to the EPA, and…are investigating them to ensure that recipients of EPA dollars do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or retaliation.” (more…)

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EPA Releases Equity Action Plan to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights

On April 14, 2022, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) released an Equity Action Plan, in accordance with Executive Order 13985, which directs EPA and other federal agencies to develop a plan to address barriers faced by underserved communities regarding full and equal participation in the Agency’s programs and procurement and contracting opportunities. Within the Equity Action Plan, EPA identifies six agency priority actions: (more…)

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Council on Environmental Quality Partially Restores National Environmental Policy Act Provisions

The U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a Final Rule regarding implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on Wednesday, April 20. As anticipated, the CEQ’s final version is nearly identical to the earlier Proposed Rule and revises three separate NEPA provisions that CEQ identified as posing significant near-term interpretation or implementation challenges for federal agencies. These three provisions include purpose and need, 40 C.F.R. § 1502.13; agency NEPA procedures, 40 C.F.R. § 1507.3; and the definition of “effects” or “impacts.” Ultimately, CEQ’s Final Rule abandons revisions the agency made to NEPA regulations in 2020 and returns certain aspects of NEPA review to the former approach. CEQ noted that this revision is the first of two phases, so additional NEPA regulatory revisions are expected later this year. (more…)

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FERC Rolls Back its Recently Enacted Policy Statements on the Certification of New Natural Gas Infrastructure

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced on March 24, 2022, that it will delay enacting any changes to its existing policies on the authorization or certification of interstate natural gas pipeline infrastructure under Sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act. Two policy statements FERC issued on February 18, 2022, in Docket No. PL18-1 and Docket No. PL21-3 (collectively, the 2022 Certificate Policy Statements) have now been deemed “drafts” that are subject to further comment. Initial comments will be due on April 25, 2022, with reply comments due on May 25, 2022. One of the two policy statements, which had been deemed “interim” but given immediate legal effect on February 18 prior to being relabeled a “draft” on March 24, had an initial comment date of April 4, 2022, which has now been extended to the aforementioned dates. Sidley provided a detailed summary of the changes implemented in the 2022 Certificate Policy Statements in a prior client alert and Energy Brief. (more…)

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Council on Environmental Quality, EPA Release Environmental Justice Screening Tools

On February 18, 2022, the Biden administration launched two tools to address environmental justice.

Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (EJSCREEN) 2.0

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) announced EJSCREEN 2.0, an update to the mapping tool, which the Agency uses to identify areas that may have higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. EPA uses EJSCREEN to inform several Agency functions, including permitting, enforcement, outreach, and compliance. (more…)

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