In an April 7 Agencywide memorandum, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) Administrator Michael Regan recommitted EPA to advancing environmental justice initiatives. Administrator Regan stated that it would be one of his “top priorities” to address environmental effects on communities whose residents are predominately of color, Indigenous, or low-income.
During the past week, President Biden’s focus on environmental justice continued to take shape with the announcement by the White House of the Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) membership and the WHEJAC’s first meeting.
On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reopened the comment period for its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on the Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities. FERC applies its current policy, issued in 1999, to assess whether to issue interstate natural gas transportation facilities a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), a foundational permit required for their construction and operation. FERC must abide with its obligations under the Natural Gas Act and National Environmental Policy Act when considering pipeline certificate applications. FERC initially issued the NOI in April 2018, seeking comment on whether, and if so how, it should revise its approach to evaluating CPCN applications. The docket has been pending for nearly three years.
On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” The order directs executive agency heads to review hundreds of agency actions implemented during the Trump administration, including more than 120 related to energy and the environment. In addition, the order suspends or revokes, in whole or in part, nearly one dozen executive orders issued by the prior president directly tied to energy infrastructure.
Earlier this month, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced multiple picks for the transition team with an environmental justice (EJ) focus. Leading the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Patrice Simms, who is vice president for healthy communities at Earthjustice. Simms has advocated for environmental enforcement focused on low-income communities and communities of color, and he has critiqued the Trump administration on the same topic. The transition team also includes alumni of the Obama administration with a reported record on EJ issues.