EPA releases strategy to protect people’s health and the environment in communities overburdened by pollution
by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
September 19, 2011
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of Plan EJ 2014, a three-year, comprehensive plan to advance environmental justice efforts in nine areas, including rulemaking, permitting, enforcement, and science. Plan EJ 2014 aims to protect people’s health in communities overburdened by pollution, to empower communities to take action to improve their health and environment, and to establish partnerships with local, state, tribal and federal governments and organizations to promote sustainable communities where a clean environment and healthy economy can thrive.
"Far too often, and for far too long, low-income, minority and tribal communities have lived in the shadows of some of the worst pollution, holding back progress in the places where they raise their families and grow their businesses," said Lisa F. Garcia, senior advisor to the EPA Administrator for Environmental Justice. "Today’s release of Plan EJ 2014 underscores Administrator Jackson's ongoing commitment to ensuring that all communities have access to clean air, water and land, and that all Americans have a voice in this environmental conversation."
Plan EJ 2014 is EPA’s strategy to meet the mandate of Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations," which states that each federal agency, with the law as its guide, should make environmental justice part of its mission.
EPA released the draft plan for public comment in fall 2010 and spring 2011 and held forums and listening sessions in communities across the country.
EPA, along with its federal partners, will continue to conduct outreach, education, stakeholder forums and listening sessions as it moves forward to implement EO 12898 and Plan EJ 2014. EPA will issue annual reports documenting the progress toward meeting the commitments outlined in Plan EJ 2014. The annual reports will be made available to the public through EPA’s website.
Plan EJ 2014: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/plan-ej/index.html
Plan EJ 2014 (PDF): http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/resources/policy/plan-ej-2014/plan-ej-2011-09.pdf
More information on environmental justice: http://epa.gov/environmentaljustice/
EPA’s Environmental Justice Plan highlights:
EPA’s goals to advance civil rights and environmental justice
One effort already under way is implementing Administrator Jackson’s priority to improve EPA’s civil rights program. Complying with EPA’s statutory civil rights obligations is a critical part of our efforts to advance environmental justice. Administrator Jackson has made improving EPA’s civil rights program a priority. As part of this effort, EPA is pursuing long overdue, vigorous, robust, and effective implementation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination statutes. EPA is committed to protecting people from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities that receive EPA’s financial assistance. In June 2011, the Administrator convened a workgroup of senior management to assess OCR and EPA’s overarching civil right program. The workgroup is charged with making recommendations to advance civil rights. The workgroup will look at revamping the civil rights office, pursuing effective and timely responses to complaints, and developing proactive compliance guidance and strategies. As the recommendations are adopted, the agency will develop implementation plans, take public comment and finalize the plans as part of EPA’s annual work plans under Plan EJ 2014.
Using the National Environmental Policy Act to advance goals of Environmental Justice
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is an important tool that can be used to advance the goals of environmental justice. A 1994 Executive Order requires that all federal agencies identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental impacts on minority, low-income and tribal populations. In April 2011, the Assistant Administrator of the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance reemphasized those requirements in a memo urging EPA offices across the country to enhance efforts to consider environmental justice in fulfilling their NEPA responsibilities.
EPA is required to review all Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) drafted by federal agencies and to make those reviews public, as mandated under Section 309 of the Clean Air Act. This review responsibility puts the EPA in a unique position to monitor how well Federal agencies comply with the Executive Order. Furthermore, the Presidential memo that transmitted the Executive Order states that the EPA, "shall ensure that the involved agency has fully analyzed environmental effects on minority communities and low-income communities, including human health, social, and economic effects."
Advancing Environmental Justice through Compliance and Enforcement EPA is committed to taking action to further ensure that our most overburdened communities are given particular consideration as we implement the Agency’s enforcement and compliance program. Through Plan EJ 2014, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) intends to focus and accelerate our efforts to identify, assess, and address environmental justice concerns in these communities when developing and implementing OECA’s program strategies, civil and criminal enforcement activities, and compliance activities. Our goal for the next three years is to fully integrate consideration of environmental justice concerns into the planning and implementation of OECA’s program strategies, case targeting strategies, and development of remedies in enforcement actions to benefit these communities. We also plan to accelerate our ongoing efforts to communicate more effectively with these communities about our enforcement actions and program activities. Through these efforts, we hope to further advance the Agency’s environmental justice goals of fair treatment and meaningful involvement of communities.
Plan EJ 2014 calls upon EPA to accelerate its ongoing efforts to give full consideration to environmental justice issues when developing and implementing its enforcement program strategies. For example, OECA selected National Enforcement Initiatives for FY 2011-2013 that include taking action against sewer overflows, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) that discharge manure to surface or ground waters, and facilities that emit excessive amounts of air toxics. These types of facilities and pollution problems often have a disproportionate impact on minority, low-income, tribal, or indigenous communities. OECA and the regions, working with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), are also pressing for remedies in enforcement cases that benefit communities overburdened by illegal pollution. OECA will also make additional efforts to provide information to overburdened communities about enforcement actions that affect those communities, and to provide meaningful opportunities for community input on the remedies sought in those enforcement actions
Plan EJ 2014 is EPA’s roadmap for integrating environmental justice and civil rights into its programs, policies, and activities. Through Plan EJ 2014, EPA intends to develop a suite of tools to advance such integration. It seeks to build stronger relationships with communities overburdened by environmental and health hazards and build partnerships that improve conditions in such communities. In 2014, EPA will make an assessment of its progress in achieving the goals of Plan EJ 2014. Based on this assessment, EPA will produce a report on the accomplishments, lessons learned, challenges, and next steps for continuing the Agency’s efforts to make environmental justice an integral part of every decision.