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 US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently finalized its long-anticipated National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (“NECIs”) for fiscal years 2024 through 2027, naming six “priority areas” on which EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) will focus its enforcement efforts and direct additional resources. In his first significant action since being confirmed by the Senate on July 20, 2023, OECA Assistant Administrator David Uhlmann issued a memorandum on August 17, 2023 to the EPA Regional Administrators, advising of the six NECIs. He stated that over the next four years EPA will “address the most significant public health and environmental challenges, protect vulnerable and overburdened communities, and promote greater compliance with our environmental laws.”Continue Reading EPA Announces Its Final National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives for FY2024-2027

On April 27, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Proposed Rule to grant Louisiana primacy to administer and enforce the Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) program within its borders. EPA approval of Louisiana’s primacy application would authorize the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) to issue UIC permits for Class VI geologic carbon sequestration facilities and undertake compliance enforcement for such facilities located within the state. EPA has determined that Louisiana’s application meets the necessary requirements for approval and is soliciting public comments on the proposal. One of the major sticking points in EPA’s approval of Louisiana’s program has been the approach to incorporating environmental justice (EJ) into the Class VI permit process. LDNR has agreed to implement a number of EJ-focused elements into the permitting process, including robust EJ analysis and public participation.Continue Reading EPA Proposes to Give Louisiana Authority for CO2 Injection Permits Under Condition that State Permit Process Includes Robust Environmental Justice Analysis and Outreach

President Biden signed a new Executive Order (E.O.) to advance environmental justice (EJ) late last week, just in time for Earth Day. E.O. 14096, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, aims to carry out its title through a bevy of actions, including requiring agencies to create EJ strategic plans, directing research on EJ issues, expanding notifications for toxic chemical releases, and increasing coordination on EJ by establishing a new EJ Interagency Council and White House Office of Environmental Justice. The new E.O. builds on the Biden Administration’s “whole-of-government” approach to EJ, making clear that the obligation to consider and address EJ applies across federal agencies. The E.O.’s directives are likely to guide federal agency permitting, funding grants, and other authorizations for projects or activities that may have implications for EJ communities. On the same day as the E.O. was signed, the administration also announced a handful of other steps to further its EJ priorities.Continue Reading New Environmental Justice Executive Order Includes Additional Requirements and Accountability Measures for Federal Agency Environmental Justice Efforts

On January 12, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published its proposed National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (“NECIs”), soliciting public comment on the Agency’s potential Initiatives for fiscal years 2024 through 2027. These NECIs will guide EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) in its enforcement efforts over the next four years by focusing resources on “serious and widespread environmental problems where federal enforcement can make a difference.” Unsurprisingly, the identified NECIs build off EPA’s FY2022 Enforcement Results (on which we recently reported) and reflect OECA’s overarching goal: “to protect human health and the environment by holding polluters accountable and compelling regulated entities to return to compliance.”Continue Reading TRENDING: EPA’s Proposed Enforcement & Compliance Initiatives Continue Heightened Focus on Environmental Justice and Climate Change, While Honing in on PFAS Contamination

The US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced its enforcement and compliance results for Fiscal Year 2022 (“FY2022”) in late December. In the Annual Results report prepared by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”), OECA highlights EPA’s efforts to target the most serious violations of the country’s core environmental statutes and civil rights laws—effectuating the mission and principles set forth in its FY2022 to 2026 EPA Strategic Plan. According to OECA, EPA’s enforcement and compliance program used “a range of tools and best practices” to specifically target water, air, land and chemical violations that impacted communities the most. In so doing, EPA reportedly reduced, treated or eliminated approximately 95 million pounds of pollutants and compelled violators to pay over $300 million in fines, restitution or penalties. The enforcement and compliance trends highlighted below continue an overall decline seen in the last decade, yet provide evidence that EPA is succeeding in its enforcement and compliance efforts in areas that are the biggest priority for the Biden administration.Continue Reading EPA’s FY2022 Enforcement Results: Key Focus on Environmental Justice and Climate Change

This article follows up on two prior articles published by Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP attorneys focusing on the Department of the Interior’s (“DOI”) funding of state orphaned well programs[1] and the Biden Administration’s promise of a greater emphasis on consulting with indigenous people and acknowledging their communities’ cultures, customs, sacred sites, and historical knowledge in the contexts of environmental planning, sustainability, and justice, and in ongoing and forthcoming federal decision making and regulatory rulemaking.[2]Continue Reading Biden Administration Makes $50 Million in Funding Available for Orphaned Well Clean Up on Tribal Lands

On November 16, 2022, the California Air Resources Board released its proposed final “2022 Scoping Plan for Achieving Carbon Neutrality.” The plan lays out a path for California to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce anthropogenic emissions to 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2045. Notably, it highlights the necessity for carbon capture and carbon removal to achieve net negative emissions. California is an ideal testing ground for CCS for several reasons, including a culture of innovation, good geology for storage, and aggressive state targets on emissions.
Continue Reading California’s 2022 Proposed Final Scoping Plan

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