By Jeffrey Karp, Senior Counsel and Edward Mahaffey, Law Clerk
A cornerstone of the Biden Administration is environmental justice, which EPA defines 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."
On April 7, EPA Administrator Michael Regan sent an email to all agency staff discussing the agency’s renewed commitment to environmental justice, and included four specific directives to all EPA offices. The first directive is stronger "enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes and civil rights laws in communities overburdened by pollution." (The memo does not identify what Mr. Regan considers "cornerstone environmental statutes" or which civil rights laws over which the EPA has enforcement authority.) The second is immediate incorporation of environmental justice considerations into the work of all EPA offices, "including assessing impacts to pollution-burdened, underserved, and Tribal communities in regulatory development processes and considering regulatory options to maximize benefits to those communities." The third directive involves "early and more frequent engagement with pollution-burdened and underserved communities affected by agency" actions, including regular consultation with Tribal officials. Finally, the email states that EPA offices should "consider and prioritize direct and indirect benefits to underserved communities in the development of grant applications and in making grant award decisions, to the extent allowed by law." Regan also noted that he and the rest of EPA’s senior leadership would establish more detailed plans and "measures of accountability" for environmental justice over the next few months.