EPA Announces Additional Actions to Advance Environmental Justice Efforts
Throughout the first year of the Biden-Harris Administration, Environmental Justice (EJ) has been a focus of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As I wrote about in November 2021, since January 2021 EPA has released numerous policies and guidance documents on EJ-related issues and has taken unprecedented actions in connection with permitting reviews and enforcement actions. EPA Administrator Michael Regan has repeatedly emphasized that EJ will be a top EPA priority.
Recently, EPA released additional broad policy actions to follow through on its EJ priority. These actions include:
“Aggressively” using EPA’s authority to conduct unannounced inspections of suspected non-compliant facilities and using all available tools to hold accountable those found to be in non-compliance.
Establishing a new program to expand air monitoring capacity, including additional air pollution inspectors, airplanes, and other air monitoring vehicles.
Leveraging EPA resources to invest in community air monitoring in vulnerable areas.
Pressing state and local elected officials to take urgent action to better protect the most overburdened communities.
Increased monitoring and oversight of polluting facilities in overburdened communities.
Applying the best available science to agency policymaking to safeguard public health and protect the environment.
EPA’s announcement included a number of specific actions focused on southern states (e.g., Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) to address long-standing EJ challenges. This included the formation of a Multi-Scale Monitoring Project called the Pollution Accountability Team (PAT), which will utilize high-tech air pollution monitoring, and an increase in inspectors on the ground to enhance inspection and enforcement actions.
While EPA’s recent announcement is primarily focused on EJ challenges in a handful of southern states, it provides useful insight into EPA’s EJ-related investments, investigations, and enforcement nationwide.