In a January 19, 2022, speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Michael S. Regan confirmed that “[f]or this EPA, environmental justice is not an add-on or an afterthought ― it is a central driving factor in all that we do.” Since his appointment as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Regan has repeatedly stressed that environmental justice will be a priority for EPA under his leadership. A press release issued a week ago outlined new concrete steps EPA will take to make good on that commitment.

Among other actions, these include:

  • Committing EPA to “aggressively” using its authority to conduct unannounced inspections of facilities suspected of being non-compliant and posing a potential threat to public health.
  • Using “all available tools” to hold facilities found to be non-compliant “accountable” for any violations.
  • Deploying land- and air-based sensors and additional EPA personnel to enhance environmental monitoring and enforcement.
  • Pressuring state and local elected officials to take “urgent action to better protect the most overburdened communities.”

These statements build on a number of prior Biden administration steps to protect environmentally overburdened communities, including increased funding to improve drinking water quality, speed the cleanup of Superfund sites, and improve tools for evaluating which communities may face environmental justice concerns. EPA’s release specifically notes that funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be targeted to areas most in need. (For more detail on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, click here.)

Environmental justice concerns are at the forefront of environmental law today. Just in the past weeks, we’ve written about a recent change to EPA’s implementation of its lead paint rules and an environmental-justice targeted dissent in a Ninth Circuit decision related to siting of a Federal Aviation Administration facility. Members of the firm’s environmental team are keeping an eye on environmental justice issues. Stay tuned for further developments.