EPA Releases Draft Environmental Justice Action Plan for its Land Protection and Cleanup Programs

WASHINGTON (Jan. 5, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft “EJ Action Plan: Building Up Environmental Justice in EPA’s Land Protection and Cleanup Programs” highlighting projects, tools, and practices to be applied to the Agency’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) programs. These programs include Superfund, Brownfields, Emergency Response, Solid Waste Management and Corrective Action, and Underground Storage Tanks. EPA will provide opportunities for meaningful public input at several upcoming virtual and in-person engagement events in 2022.

“During my Journey to Justice Tour, I spoke with concerned residents who have been dealing with the severe impacts of longstanding pollution where they live, work, go to school, and pray. These communities are looking to EPA for action, and now we must deliver,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “Pursuing environmental justice for historically underserved communities is central to EPA’s mission, and this draft OLEM EJ Action Plan will enable stronger and faster progress in addressing contaminated land across the country.”

The draft OLEM EJ Action Plan covers projects and activities intended to address land cleanup issues in overburdened communities across the country. The draft plan includes strategies to enhance nearly two dozen projects while addressing the need for stronger compliance, increased environmental justice considerations in EPA regulations, and improved community engagement.

The draft OLEM EJ Action Plan will be significantly enhanced by EPA’s recent announcement of a $1 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the first wave of a total of $3.5 billion under the Law, to initiate cleanup and clear the backlog of 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country. EPA is currently finalizing cleanup plans and preparing funding mechanisms for construction work, all of which will contribute to the goals of the draft OLEM EJ Action Plan.

“I was very pleased to have EPA Administrator Regan Visit our impacted communities, to see firsthand the environmental justice struggles communities in Louisiana face daily. I am happy to see that EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management is seriously taking up the challenge of actively addressing environmental justice solutions and engaging directly with the public on these projects,” said Dr. Beverly Wright of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

The draft OLEM EJ Action Plan is part of a whole-of-government and EPA-wide effort to address the nation’s environmental justice challenges in line with the priorities identified by President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan.

The draft OLEM EJ Action Plan includes four main goals to be carried out in the Agency’s land protection and cleanup programs:

  1. Strengthening compliance with cornerstone environmental statutes and civil rights laws: This includes developing a “Good Governance” process and referral list to help address follow-up actions on communities’ environmental concerns.
  2. Incorporating environmental justice considerations during the regulatory development process: This includes assessing impacts to pollution-burdened, underserved, and tribal communities when developing OLEM regulations, while developing tools to identify, track, and consider the implications of potential EJ-related factors throughout the Superfund process.
  3. Improving community engagement in rulemakings, permitting decisions, and policies: This includes providing earlier and more frequent engagement with pollution-burdened and underserved communities in carrying out OLEM programs, and increasing technical support and risk communication resources for communities through the Agency’s Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) program and various grants.
  4. Implementing President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative: This includes providing direct and indirect benefits to underserved communities with grant application resources and in making grant award decisions, to the extent allowed by law.

The draft plan also compliments the recommendations for integrating environmental justice into the cleanup and redevelopment of Superfund and other contaminated sites highlighted in the May 2021 National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) report titled “Superfund Remediation and Redevelopment for Environmental Justice Communities.” The Agency appreciates and supports the NEJAC’s overall goal to continue to address barriers, develop solutions, and recommend best practices for improving EPA’s ability to expedite Superfund cleanups. EPA also embraces the need for better outcomes in communities where there are unique burdens and vulnerabilities for populations living in and around Superfund sites.

Background:

In 2021, President Biden issued two executive orders – 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) – that directed federal agencies to promote and work toward proactively achieving environmental justice. Federal agencies were directed to develop and implement policies and strategies that strengthen compliance and enforcement, incorporate environmental justice considerations in their work, increase community engagement, and ensure that at least 40 percent of the benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy flow to underserved communities.

This draft OLEM EJ Action Plan builds on the best lessons in existing and new cleanup programs and is working toward the implementation of projects and practices to achieve EPA’s environmental justice goals. Using years of cleanup experiences, success stories, and lessons learned from working toward environmental justice, the Agency is committed to new approaches and investments of time, staffing and funding that will improve quality of cleanups in communities with environmental justice concerns.

For more information on the draft “EJ Action Plan: Building Up Environmental Justice in EPA’s Land Protection and Cleanup Programs” and future public input opportunities, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/draft-environmental-justice-action-plan-epas-land-protection-and-cleanup-programs

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