City of Chicago Complies With EPA Request to Suspend Permit Review

On May 7, 2021, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan wrote the mayor of Chicago, suggesting that the city suspend a decision on a permit seeking to expand a metal recycling plant in Chicago’s southeast side until a full environmental justice (EJ) analysis is conducted. Administrator Regan’s action is consistent with his comments during the first meeting of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (discussed here), in which Regan outlined EPA’s intention to use Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to advance EJ concerns in connection with facility siting decisions.

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EPA Issues Memorandum Outlining Environmental Justice Enforcement Plans

On April 30, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement, Lawrence Starfield, issued a memorandum outlining agency enforcement plans in communities with environmental justice concerns. Given the Biden administration’s focus on environmental justice both during the campaign and since the inauguration, this memorandum is not a surprise. The memorandum follows on Administrator Michael Regan’s message to EPA employees regarding the agency’s commitment to environmental justice, which was discussed on this blog on April 13.

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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Clarifies Application of Rule Limiting Construction Activities

On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued Order No. 871-B, an Order Limiting Authorizations to Proceed with Construction Activities. The order revises FERC regulations at 18 C.F.R. § 157.23(b) enacted in July 2020 following the issuance of Order No. 871.

The regulation now prohibits authorizations to proceed with construction for pipeline or liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal facilities from issuing if a timely request for rehearing of a certificate order has been filed specifically opposing project construction, operation, or need until (1) the request is no longer pending before FERC, (2) the record of the proceeding has been filed with the court of appeals, or (3) 90 days have passed after the date that the request for rehearing may be deemed to have been denied under the Natural Gas Act’s (NGA) rehearing provisions at 15 U.S.C. § 717r(a).

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WHEJAC Progresses on Environmental Justice Recommendations

On April 28, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) reconvened to discuss the progress of three working groups established during its inaugural meeting on which we reported previously: the Justice40 Initiative, Executive Order 12898, and Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool working groups.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Announces Environmental Justice and Climate Action Initiatives

On April 23, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael Regan, announced three new agency initiatives to support “community-driven solutions” for environmental justice and climate change in North America and across the world. The announcement came in conjunction with President Joe Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate where the President pledged to cut nationwide net greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% to 52% by 2030 in comparison to 2005 levels.

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