Recently, the USEPA has focused on environmental justice, causing many to ask: What is “environmental justice”? In its simplest terms, environmental justice is a cross-section of civil rights, environmental law, land use and science, created to combat disproportionate exposures to environmental hazards by historically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. These hazards include lead exposure, drinking water quality, air quality and proximity/exposure to hazardous sites. USEPA formally 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.”
In an effort to promote environmental justice and address the core issues, USEPA has re-introduced the EJ 202 Action Agenda, a mandate that will extend to all of USEPA’s work, including with regard to setting technical standards for contaminants, enforcement, permitting, and the evaluation and awarding of grants, leaving more specific goals to be identified within the framework of the law.
We expect to hear much more about environmental justice and see it at work at all levels of government in the near future.