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Volume XII, Number 183

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Justice Department Announces Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy and Reinstitutes SEPs

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced its Environmental Justice (EJ) Enforcement Strategy, which not only provides a roadmap for the Justice Department’s civil and criminal enforcement, but also revives supplemental environmental projects (SEPs), a popular tool used in settling federal enforcement actions.

Created pursuant to Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the Enforcement Strategy directs DOJ attorneys to: (1) prioritize cases that will reduce public health and environmental harms to overburdened and underserved communities; (2) use available tools to address EJ concerns; (3) engage with impacted communities; and (4) be transparent about EJ efforts.

Relatedly, the DOJ issued an Interim Final Rule that restores the use of SEPs – environmentally beneficial projects such as restoration work, public awareness campaigns, or pollution prevention efforts – that companies can volunteer to undertake as part of their settlements for alleged violations, often in exchange for lower penalties.

The Trump administration severely limited the use of SEPs, to the dismay of many in the regulated community who favored the projects both as a way of lowering their fines and to perform projects that benefit communities in which they conduct business. Indeed, experts favor SEPs as an effective way to provide tangible environmental and public health benefits to impacted communities and to speed up settlement negotiations.

SEPs will be implemented pursuant to 2022 SEP Guidelines, which understandably require a nexus between the project and the alleged federal law violation, but which also require the execution of  any settlement  before an admission or finding of liability in favor of the United States.

©2022 Pierce Atwood LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 138
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About this Author

Lisa Gilbreath, Pierce Atwood, Environmental lawyer
Associate

Lisa Gilbreath is an associate in the Environmental & Land Use and Energy Infrastructure Development, Acquisition & Financing practice groups. Lisa works on a wide variety of environmental and energy matters, offering clients strategic advice in regulatory, legislative, and judicial proceedings.

In her environmental practice, Lisa assists clients with numerous issues including energy project development permitting, energy and environmental litigation, air quality legislative and regulatory activities, air quality enforcement, hazardous substances and...

(207) 791-1397
Matthew D. Manahan, Pierce Atwood LLP, Environmental lawyer
Partner

Since 1989 Matt Manahan has worked closely with businesses to find innovative solutions to the environmental law issues they face. He provides strategic counsel in regulatory, legislative, and judicial proceedings involving a broad range of environmental and land use issues, including those relating to energy project development, transfer and development of contaminated property, water use, energy, and Native American regulatory claims.

Matt is adept at stakeholder negotiations, including with state and federal regulators, that are a necessary part of large...

(207) 791-1189
Brian M. Rayback, Pierce Atwood, environmental regulatory lawyer
Partner

Brian Rayback focuses his practice on environmental and land use law, with expertise in all aspects of water, air, natural resources, solid waste, and zoning regulation.

Brian provides cost-effective, strategic advice on project permitting, enforcement matters, appeals of agency decisions, regulatory compliance, and legislative issues for property developers and owners, trade associations, utilities, construction companies, and industrial and manufacturing facilities. He regularly appears before federal, state, and local boards and agencies to assist clients in...

(207) 791-1188
Georgia M. Bolduc Environmental Attorney Pierce Atwood Portland, ME
Associate

Georgia Bolduc is an associate in the Environmental Practice Group, where she specializes in a broad array of environmental issues, including due diligence and permitting of renewable energy projects (particularly in the solar space), hazardous and solid waste management, air emissions, wastewater discharges, natural resource issues, and zoning law.

Georgia is a recent graduate of Boston University School of Law, where she was a member of the International Law Journal, secretary of the Energy and Environmental Law Society, and pioneered...

207-791-1249
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