What is Environmental Justice? The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Environmental Justice (EJ) as, “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” EJ has been around for years, but has quickly come to the forefront in local, state, and federal decision-making processes. In January 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government and Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. As part of this, EPA received $100M for its EJ program in fiscal year (FY) 2022, which is an increase from the $15M/year they usually receive. EPA plans to use this funding to develop EJ Grants, increase EJ staffing across the regions, support EJ advisory committees and the development of screening tools.
In March 2022, EPA issued its FY 2022-2026 strategic goals, with Goal Number 2 being, “Take Decisive Action to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights” to help achieve the objectives listed in the Executive Orders. The purpose of this goal is to ensure that communities who have historically been subjected to environmental injustices receive measurable improvements in environmental, health, and quality of life. By September 30, 2023, EPA plans to have the following items addressed:
- Develop and implement a cumulative impacts framework
- Issue guidance on external civil rights compliance
- Establish at least 10 indicators to access EPA’s performance in reducing disparities in environmental and public health conditions
- Train staff and partners on how to use these resources
What does this mean for your company’s objectives and goals for growth? When adding a new process, building a new facility, or moving to another location, more in-depth evaluations will be needed in addition to complying with current regulations. Demographics and local air quality will be considered and could be the reason an approval is denied. Recently, in Chicago, a metal recycling facility relocated from an affluent White community to an underprivileged Black and Brown community was denied a Permit to Operate due to the potential health impacts. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have already created legislation and are in the process of promulgating regulations regarding EJ while other states are just beginning. CAPACCIO will continue to follow the roll out of these history-changing regulatory developments and provide guidance as the details are developed.