On October 13, 2023, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) published its first annual report detailing the implementation of its Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy (EJ Strategy). As we reported, in mid-2022, DOJ established an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a new Office of Environmental Justice (EJ) and External Civil Rights. DOJ’s OEJ is housed in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). DOJ intended its EJ Strategy to extend throughout the Department, in that OEJ’s mandate is to engage all DOJ bureaus, components, and offices in the collective pursuit of environmental justice. DOJ’s new report cites two main executive branch agencies involved in environmental protection and community development: EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The report touts efforts that DOJ views as EJ-related “successes” and details a number of authorities DOJ has relied upon in EJ-focused enforcement, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Affordable Care Act. Building on these highlighted successes, DOJ states that it will continue its focus on enforcement proceedings where there is a nexus with environmental justice and will seek EJ-focused mitigation to resolve such proceedings. Continue Reading New Report Suggests DOJ to Continue Actively Pursuing Environmental Justice-Focused Enforcement Actions
The Biden-Harris administration is taking new steps to put some teeth into its emphasis on addressing environmental justice. Two recent developments are worth noting given the potential impact on projects and communities. One, EPA announced on September 24, 2022 that it is launching its new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR or EJ Office). Two, in August 2022, EPA’s Office of General Counsel issued a guidance document entitled Interim Environmental Justice and Civil Rights in Permitting Frequently Asked Questions that outlines EPA’s current views as to how federal, state, and local permitting agencies can meet the requirements of civil rights laws when they are administering environmental permitting requirements. …
Continue Reading Environmental Justice in Focus: Why EPA’s New EJ Office and EJ FAQs Guidance Are Important
Two recent actions by the Biden Administration will identify areas of focus for environmental justice and therefore influence environmental enforcement priorities, federal permitting and licensing, and federal spending, among other actions. On February 18, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released the beta (or draft) version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), a key component of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. The Justice40 Initiative set the goal of “delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments” to disadvantaged communities. The CEJST serves a specific purpose: to help agencies identify disadvantaged communities in order to direct federal benefits and help agencies measure whether 40 percent of benefits are being received by those communities.
Continue Reading Biden Administration Rolls Out New Climate, Economic, and Environmental Justice Tools
Last week, EPA announced the results of its enforcement and compliance efforts for the federal government’s 2021 fiscal year (FY2021)—October 2020 through September 2021. Prepared by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), the report offers the first high-level look at the EPA’s enforcement of environmental laws under the Biden Administration. “Coming off a challenging few years,” said EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for OECA, Larry Starfield, “these 2021 results make clear that rigorous enforcement is back at EPA.” Key metrics in the report appear consistent with that message.
Continue Reading EPA Releases Annual Enforcement Statistics for 2021, Announces “Rigorous Enforcement is Back”
After over two weeks of conferencing, the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP26) concluded with the finalization of the Glasgow Climate Pact (the “Glasgow Pact”) listing the accomplishments of the summit. The Glasgow Pact reaffirms the long-term global goals (including those in the Paris Agreement) to hold the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It also states that limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires “rapid, deep, and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases.”…
Continue Reading The Results of COP26
EPA hopes to issue its final National Recycling Strategy (NRS) this November, according to recent statements by acting director of EPA’s Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division, Office of Land and Emergency Management Nena Shaw at the American Bar Association’s Fall Conference. Previously, EPA indicated it intended to finalize the NRS in the spring of 2021 with an implementation roadmap out in the fall of 2021. To date, the agency has yet to release its final NRS.
Continue Reading Waste Not, Want Not: EPA’s Impending National Recycling Strategy