EPA Seeks New Ideas To Include Environmental Justice Groups In The Rulemaking Process

Source: online.liebertpub.com

Do you have ideas to help federal decision makers ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately represented in new rules?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a technical guidance document in May to assist its staff with tools and information to include environmental justice (EJ) issues in the agency’s rulemaking process. This document, titled “Draft Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis,” is open for public comment until Sept 6, 2013. Time is running out to have your voice heard!

What is Environmental Justice?

EPA defines Environmental Justice as 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. EPA launched its EJ movement in the early 1980s to provide an open forum for citizens and communities particularly impacted by environmental and pollution hazards. For instance, communities disproportionately impacted by pollution around the Houston Ship Channel or near the Port of Houston would be considered EJ areas.

What is the expected result of these efforts?

The technical guidance document will serve as a tool to incorporate the principles of EJ in new EPA rulemakings. This is a significant step, because in the past EPA’s rulemaking process often overlooked underrepresented communities. The agency’s goal is to include EJ issues in its rulemaking in a comprehensive, proactive and consistent manner—and it’s making concrete progress.

Recently, EPA has seen an uptick in EJ involvement for proposed rules. On average, more than twenty EJ studies were conducted per year from 2010-2012, versus an average of less than two per year from 1995-2009.

I serve on a science advisory board technical review committee that is evaluating EPA’s draft technical document, as well as any public comments. Dr. Keith Moo-Young of Washington State University Tri-Cities chaired the first meeting of the review committee earlier this summer. The meeting showed us that that one of the most difficult challenges will be engaging with the EJ community in the rulemaking process in a meaningful way. EJ communities often don’t have the resources or technical capacity to participate in the comment process in as robust a way as other stakeholders or established environmental groups.

The technical guidance document is just one element of EJ Plan 2014 that EPA released under former Administrator Lisa Jackson’s leadership. To discover more about the progress of the 2014 EJ Plan, check out the EJ Plan 2014 progress report.

For more information, or to submit comments on the draft technical guidance itself, click here.

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