EPA released its Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda on Oct. 27. The Agenda details EPA’s strategic plan for 2016-2020 to further implement and integrate “environmental justice” considerations into all of EPA’s programs. Much of EPA’s proposed Agenda appears tailored to respond to the recent drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich. The regulated community should take note of potential heightened scrutiny and enforcement by EPA in the areas identified in the proposed Agenda, including: (1) lead exposure; (2) drinking water contamination; (3) air quality; and (4) hazardous waste sites.
EPA’s Environmental Justice program is focused on how to reduce environmental and health disparities for minority, low-income and tribal populations, and how to improve the air, water and land in the nation’s most overburdened communities. EPA’s current areas of focus for environmental justice are:
- Lead (working to eliminate disparities in childhood blood lead levels and to identify geographic areas with the greatest lead exposures and work to reduce lead in drinking water);
- Drinking water (working to ensure all people served by community water systems have drinking water that meets applicable health-based standards, with a special emphasis on addressing drinking water challenges in underserved communities);
- Air quality (achieving air quality that meets the fine particle pollution national ambient air quality standards in all areas of the country, with special emphasis on communities with poor air quality and low-income populations); and
- Hazardous waste sites (reducing human exposure to contamination at hazardous waste sites, with emphasis on minority, low-income and vulnerable communities).
In addition, EPA announced potential future areas of environmental justice focus for the following areas: (1) pesticide impact on farmworkers; (2) commercial transportation of freight; (3) water infrastructure; (4) air pollution; and (5) climate change.
Regulated entities should keep track of EPA’s evolving Environmental Justice program, particularly given EPA’s stated goal of incorporating principles of “environmental justice” into all of EPA’s programs. Simply put, heightened regulatory focus on operations perceived to be disproportionately affecting “overburdened” communities may become the norm.
You can read more about EPA’s areas of focus here.