Environmental Justice

EM – February 2022: This month, EM focuses on environmental justice. Once an afterthought, environmental justice is now a major consideration for new governmental, industrial, and transportation activities.
by John D. Kinsman

Environmental justice (EJ) is an increasingly important focus of the Biden Administration, states, and businesses. Our distinguished authors focus on U.S. Federal government actions, state perspectives, and practical considerations for dealing with communities and also addressing facility siting, permitting, compliance, and enforcement.

The first article by Matthew Tejada—Director of EPA's Office of Environmental Justice—addresses the agency's array of EJ activities, such as a new strategic plan devoting much attention to EJ; working with external advisors; developing assessment tools and compliance and enforcement guidance; addressing air and water monitoring; working with states; implementing the President's Justice40 initiative; and complying with civil rights laws. The author discusses the importance of jointly advancing equity, achieving justice, and tackling the climate crisis. Tejada says it is the joint responsibility for collaborative efforts by federal government, tribal governments, states, cities, academic institutions, and business and industry to address the holistic set of complex challenges facing many communities.

The next article, by Miles Keogh—Executive Director of the NACAA, an association of state and local air pollution control agencies—discusses how agencies identify issues, opportunities and challenges in advancing clean air protections for vulnerable communities, while noting threats related to land use, water pollution, and exposure to hazardous materials. Keogh examines a survey of NACAA members finding that all responding agencies are engaged in programs focused on improving protections for EJ communities and are integrating EJ into every aspect of their activities, including planning, permitting, monitoring, and enforcement. All agencies expect EJ to become an area of increasing emphasis in the future.

Our third article, by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn—Partner, Baker Botts, LLP—talks about proactive strategies for the regulated community to address EJ. These strategies also are broad enough to be used by local governments, academia, and other stakeholders. Dunn discusses six pillars of an approach that can help an entity evaluate the legal, regulatory, and policy issues raised by regulatory authorities' increased consideration of EJ in permitting, enforcement, and litigation proceedings.

The final article, by Venu Ghanta—Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs and Environmental Policy at Duke Energy Corporation—addresses the company internalizing environmental justice principles during its clean energy transition and for its infrastructure projects. As the company strives to be a strong community partner, the author notes the importance of using screening tools to account for environmental justice nputs as it plans projects; identifying disadvantaged communities early in project development to engage in meaningful stakeholder engagement; and identifying critical community concerns and working toward constructive solutions.

Continue reading the full February 2022 issue of EM.


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