EPA has released “EJ 2020 Action Agenda,” its action plan for addressing environmental justice (“EJ”) for 2016 through 2020. The Agenda builds on the foundation established in its last EJ strategic plan, Plan EJ 2014, which laid the groundwork of EJ practices with guidance and tools to integrate EJ in EPA’s programs and policies. The Agenda is framed by three overarching goals with priority areas and examples of key actions for each goal, as well as measures to evaluate progress.
The first goal is to deepen EJ practice within EPA programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities. The priority areas for this goal are rulemaking, permitting, compliance and enforcement, and science, and EPA is also assigning specific offices and regions as co-leads for implementing each goal for each priority area. For example, the co-leads for the compliance and enforcement priority area under this goal are the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and EPA Region 8. EPA proposes several key action items under this goal such as institutionalizing EJ into rulemaking and creating a framework for EJ consideration in permitting. EPA also plans to direct greater enforcement resources toward violations in overburdened communities with a goal of undertaking strategies in 100 of the Nation’s most overburdened communities in the next five years. EPA also includes a strategy of implementing more supplemental environmental projects and mitigation projects in overburdened communities. EPA established measures to evaluate progress toward meeting the Agenda’s goals. In the rulemaking priority area, EPA set a measure for training EPA staff involved in the development of environmental justice analysis for rules and in the compliance and enforcement area includes measures of the percent of enforcement actions initiated by EPA in overburdened communities; the number of strategies focused in the most overburdened communities; and the number of EPA settlements that incorporate environmental monitors and transparency tools.
The second goal is to work with partners to expand EPA’s positive impact within overburdened communities. The priority areas for this goal are state and local governments, federal agencies, community-based work, and tribes and indigenous peoples. The key actions for this goal include collaborations and education efforts with local governments through Performance Partnership Agreements, promoting environmental justice with federal agencies via the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, and supporting community-based efforts to catalyze revitalization of overburdened communities by implementing best practices and federal partnerships, among others. Measures of meeting this goal include reporting on the number state and local agencies delegated authorities implementing federal environmental laws who have received EJ training by EPA staff, and the number of tips or complaints EPA receives from local communities broken down by region and program.
The final goal is to demonstrate progress on significant national environmental justice challenges. The priority areas for this goal are lead disparities, drinking water, air quality, and hazardous waste sites. Key actions under this goal include eliminating disparities in childhood blood lead levels by convening partners to identify geographic areas with the highest lead exposure, ensuring drinking water standards are met in underserved communities, and reducing human exposure to hazardous waste sites.
Beyond the goals and key actions, EPA breaks the Agenda down into 10 Chapters to address the priority areas identified in its goals. The Agenda also sets forth five key results EPA expects from implementation of its goals: Improving on-the-ground results for overburdened communities through reduced impacts and enhanced benefits; institutionalizing environmental justice integration in EPA decision-making; building robust partnerships with states, tribes and local governments; strengthening EPA’s ability to take action on environmental justice and cumulative impacts; and better addressing complex national environmental justice issues.