The Biden Administration has left no doubt that it intends to prioritize environmental justice (EJ) in implementing energy and environmental policy. While EJ is not new – in fact, President Clinton signed the first EJ Executive Order (EO 12898) in 1994 – the new Administration’s plan to expand the concept to include “climate justice” and “health equity” is both novel and undefined. Similar to actions taken on climate change (see our previous alert from January 28), President Biden has announced plans for elevating EJ by designating new Cabinet level offices, intensifying enforcement, and advocating for Congressional action. Given the likelihood of serious impacts from these sweeping changes, industry will need to step up engagement as these concepts are integrated into regulatory decisions and U.S. positions globally.
Authority for addressing injustice caused by environmental pollution that disproportionately affects certain communities is found in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act imposed a responsibility on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) to ensure that its funds are not being used to subsidize discrimination, based on race, color, or national origin, making EPA’s Office of Civil Rights responsible for the investigation and enforcement of Title VI within the Agency. President Clinton relied on this authority in signing EO 12898, which directed federal agencies to identify and address disproportionately high adverse human health and environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority and, going beyond the protections covered by Title VI, low-income populations.
Reprinted courtesy of Karen C. Bennett, Lewis Brisbois, Jane C. Luxton, Lewis Brisbois, Rose Quam-Wickham, Lewis Brisbois and William J. Walsh, Lewis Brisbois
Ms. Bennett may be contacted at Karen.Bennett@lewisbrisbois.com
Ms. Luxton may be contacted at Jane.Luxton@lewisbrisbois.com
Ms. Quam-Wickham may be contacted at Rose.QuamWickham@lewisbrisbois.com
Mr. Walsh may be contacted at William.Walsh@lewisbrisbois.com