EPA Signals Heightened Focus on Environmental Justice with Sweeping Guidance

June 15, 2022

The Biden-Harris administration recently affirmed its commitment to advancing environmental justice, issuing a sweeping guidance document on May 26, 2022. At first glance, the guidance from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) merely reviews longstanding statutes and executive orders for environmental justice–oriented authority. But a closer reading reveals a subtle shift in EPA’s decision-making.

Although more ambitious proposals would require notice-and-comment rulemaking, the guidance shows that EPA currently wields sufficient discretion to redirect permitting, funding, and enforcement actions to address environmental justice concerns. Industries operating in or near communities with environmental justice concerns should prepare to address community concerns in their own decision-making processes—or face a potentially tougher road to agency approval.

Summer associate Maria Cosma contributed to this White Paper.