U.S. EPA Releases Annual Environmental Justice Progress Report
EPA reaffirms its commitment to promote Environmental Justice in annual summary report.
Environmental justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Since the Executive Order 12898 - Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations - was signed twenty-five years ago, EPA has continued its work to improve the air, water and land in vulnerable, low-income, minority, tribal and indigenous communities.
As in previous years, EPA has affirmed its committment to assisting vulnerable communities to become cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous places to live, work, play, and learn in its recently released FY 2018 Annual Environmental Justice Progress Report, which highlights how EJ is integrated into the work of EPA’s programs and regional offices and how EPA partners with federal, state and local governments, tribes, indigenous peoples and communities to advance environmental justice in communities across the country.
The EJ Progress Report highlights examples of how EPA has advanced environmental justice through improved:
- Certainty to Federal, States, Tribes and Local Governments and Other Partners;
- Certainty in EPA’s Programs; and
- Certainty in Risk Communication
1 Certainty to Federal, States, Tribes and Local Governments and Other Partners
- The Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice connected and engaged over 1,000 individual stakeholders through in-person dialogue, meetings, conference presentations and webinars.
- EPA launched the Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization Council and issued a Memo on EPA’s Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization Priorities that affirmed EPA’s commitment to the mission and goals of the Agency EJ Program – to engage with and meet the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable communities regarding disproportionate environmental impacts, health disparities and economic distress.
- In coordination with the State of Hawaii and EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Region 9 settled a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act worker protection case against Syngenta, including a $550,000 penalty, the largest worker protection case in the nation.
- Region 2 and partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will leverage more than $10 million in funding from nonprofit partners to help small drinking water systems not managed by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.
- The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention collaborated with over 40 tribal partners to develop an education curriculum for increasing understanding and awareness of childhood lead exposures, health effects, and preventative actions.
2. Certainty in EPA’s Programs
- As part of the Superfund Task Force, between July 2017 and July 2018, the Superfund Program held or participated in more than 1,370 public meetings and 3,190 in-person meetings or interviews with community members living near Superfund sites . In FY 2018, EPA also supported 42 Technical Assistance Grants and the creation of 18 Superfund Community Involvement Plans . As of the end of FY 2018, about 1,000 Superfund sites support new and ongoing uses.
- The Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization awarded 144 communities with Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup grants . The 221 grants totaling $54 .3 million will provide communities with funding to assess, clean up and redevelop underutilized properties.
- EPA reported a significant improvement in the percentage of the low-income population living in counties where the particulate matter PM2 .5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards are being met . The most recent monitoring data from 2015-2017 showed the percentage increased from 86% compared to the baseline data of 43% from 2006-2008.
- Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) FY 2018 grants have been awarded for projects in and around ports totaling approximately $19 million of the total $43 million available. Approximately $3 million was awarded for airport projects, and $4 million for locomotive projects . Priority was given to funding DERA projects that engage and benefit local communities and applicants that demonstrate their ability to promote and continue efforts to reduce emissions after the project has ended, especially any communities or populations that have faced or are facing environmental justice concerns.
- EPA awarded approximately $25.4 million in 2017 - 2018 in training and technical assistance grants for small drinking water utilities. Recipients include the National Rural Water Association, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, and the Environmental Finance Center Network.
- EPA is taking actions to protect children from lead exposure and is working with our federal partners on the Federal Lead Action Plan.
- The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention included environmental justice considerations at key points in the rulemaking process to propose new dust-lead hazard standards for reducing lead exposures among children.
- EPA performed over 900 environmental justice screenings in enforcement and compliance work to assure that EPA enforcement personnel working on a case are aware of the potential EJ concerns in a community, and then may look for opportunities to address those concerns.
- In partnership with Urban Waters, the Office of Environmental Justice awarded a total of $1.2 million grant funding to 10 communities to address local environmental and public health issues . Eighty percent of the FY 2018 Collaborative Problem-Solving Agreements were awarded to projects in rural communities. This EJ Grants and Communities Story Map highlights three recent EJ grantee success stories.
- Approximately 68% of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation-administered Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grants fully or partially funded by EPA in FY 2018 were awarded to projects planned with underserved communities.
- EPA’s two-pronged effort on coordination between EJ and civil rights program included: (1) investigation of complaints filed with EPA pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and (2) training and technical assistance to 25 states, as well as local agencies and tribes, across all ten EPA Regions, on how to proactively address their civil rights obligations.
3. Certainty in Risk Communication
- As part of the Superfund Task Force, EPA formed a new NEJAC Superfund Working Group to advance the effectiveness and efficiency of the Superfund program and recommend ways community revitalization can be furthered through reuse of formerly contaminated sites.
- EPA conducted several events with communities impacted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to directly hear from the public on how to best help states and communities facing this issue.
- EPA launched a mobile app version of EJSCREEN and conducted over 30 EJSCREEN trainings for a wide range of stakeholders.
- In 2018, EPA hosted the first National Leadership Summit to take action on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the environment, and engaged with communities impacted by PFAS to directly hear from the public on how to best help states and communities facing this issue.
- EPA provided technical assistance to numerous communities through the Office of Environmental Justice and the Office of Community Revitalization, and hosted various trainings as part of the Superfund Job Training Initiative (SuperJTI), the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Program, the Community Involvement Training, and trainings led by Office of Air Quality Planning & Standards that helped increase the capacity for meaningful engagement for communities with environmental justice concerns.
EPA's latest EJ report reaffirms the agency's committment to deepen its efforts to protect the health and environment for everyone across the United States.
For more information on EPA’s environmental justice efforts, resources and tools, please visit the Office of Environmental Justice’s website.
To receive regularly emailed updates on federal resources, tools and trainings related to environmental justice, please sign up for the EJ Listserv.