EPA defines “environmental justice” 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 June 7, 2016, EPA released its final version of the Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis (EJ Technical Guidance). EPA previously released a draft version of this guidance on May 9, 2013. The new guidance complements EPA’s Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of Regulatory Actions, issued in May 2015, which provides direction on when EJ should be considered during the development of a “regulatory action,” and begins to address the issue of how to do so in an analytical fashion. A “regulatory action” is “any substantive action by an agency (normally published in the Federal Register) that promulgates or is expected to lead to the promulgation of a final rule or regulation, including notices of inquiry, advance notices of proposed rulemaking, and notices of proposed rulemaking.”
The guidance is intended to be used by EPA analysts as a detailed framework for analyzing potential EJ concerns for regulatory actions. The guidance provides detailed descriptions of various factors that indicate EJ concerns. Moreover, the guidance offers complex quantitative and qualitative assessment methods for investigating EJ. EPA states that it plans to further update this guidance as science, data, and analytic methods improve. EPA released the new EJ Technical Guidance on the heels of its proposed Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda (the “Proposed EJ 2020”) released on May 23, 2016. The Proposed EJ 2020 addresses the Agency’s strategy for environmental justice for 2016-2020. Comments are due on the Proposed EJ 2020 on July 7, 2016. In recent years, EPA has developed a strategic and sophisticated approach for advancing its EJ goals. Industry stakeholders have engaged EPA on its EJ strategy and are becoming more familiar with the Agency’s overall EJ agenda.