On January 27, 2021, the Biden Administration put forth Executive Order 14008, creating the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council. Environmental Justice (EJ), as defined by the EPA, is “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.”
While the EPA was previously at the forefront of EJ oversight, Executive Order 14008 expands the mission of EJ to a total of 18 agencies including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Defense, Energy, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. With the increased scope of oversight and enforcement expanding beyond just the EPA with regards to EJ, the expectation is EJ principles will be increasingly applied in projects, initiatives, and enforcement actions across all these federal agencies.
Impact on Regulatory Inspections
As stated in the latest Progress Report from the EPA – Progress Report on Incorporating Environmental Justice into Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Work (March 1, 2022):
“Increasing EPA’s presence in overburdened and vulnerable communities is a cornerstone of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance’s (OECA) Environmental Justice strategy. OECA has set a national goal to conduct 45% of all inspections nationally in fiscal year 2022 (FY 2022) at facilities located in or affecting vulnerable or overburdened communities. This is an estimated increase of almost 20% over our historical average, and the goal will increase to 50% for FY 2023 and FY 2024, and to 55% in FY 2025 and FY 2026.”
Impact on Regulatory Permitting
How could this new EPA directive affect permitting initiatives your company?
Certain states have already acted:
- North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey are requiring an EJ assessment as part of the permitting process.
- Alabama is adding an EJ Screen report component to all their permit notices.
The increased interest in EJ from regulatory branches could affect facility permits:
- Permit renewals will likely be under more regulatory scrutiny including additional costs, extended schedule for renewals, and potentially lower discharge limits.
- Regulatory authorities may examine discharges to all medias and the surrounding EJ status of receptors.
- A more complex and expensive permitting process overall
The growing focus on EJ will have real-world impacts on facility management, due diligence in mergers and acquisitions, and remediation and enforcement activities. EHS Support understands the complex regulations and works closely with you to develop comprehensive solutions that ensures the safety of all stakeholders. Our team of professionals bring premium consulting services in the areas of:
- PROCESS SAFETY MANAGEMENT
- PROCESS HAZARD ANALYSIS WITH LEADER SOFTWARE TRAINING
- environmental compliance
- due diligence
- CAUSE MAPPING
- NFPA CLASSIFICATION OF HAZARDOUS LOCATIONS
What should you do to prepare?
- Understand if your facilities are in areas that are underserved – use EPA’s EJ Screen Calculator. This tool geographically combines environmental and demographic data, highlighting areas where vulnerable populations may be disproportionately affected by pollution.
- If your facilities are located in these areas, increase focus on:
- Compliance at these facilities
- Identify permit renewals that are pending to allow for more time in the renewal schedule and preparation for additional scrutiny on submissions.
Reach out to Beth Hesse today and explore how the EHS Support Team can help you stay in compliance and achieve your goals.