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US Department of Justice Creates Office of Environmental Justice

Posted on 5/13/2022 by Lauren Scott

On May 5, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced plans to create an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to oversee and help guide the department’s environmental justice efforts in partnership with EPA.

Acting Director Cynthia Ferguson will lead OEJ. Ferguson has over two decades of experience at DOJ advancing environmental justice as an attorney on the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

States and territories across the country must appoint an Environmental Justice Coordinator to help identify areas of concern in their communities as well as to establish public reporting procedures for such concerns.

DOJ also reinstated the use of supplemental environmental projects as enforcement actions via an Interim Final Rule published on May 10. Prior to 2017, enforcement actions for environmental crimes often included supplemental environmental projects designed to allow payments to non-governmental third parties.

By reinstating these projects with new guidelines and limitations, DOJ seeks to more fully compensate victims, remedy harm, and punish and deter future violations. The harms caused by violations of Federal environmental statutes, including harm to communities affected by environmental crime, can be difficult to redress directly in many cases. In such circumstances, DOJ has previously relied upon supplemental environmental projects, environmentally beneficial projects that a defendant has proposed and agrees to implement as part of the settlement of an enforcement action.
 

EPA Plans Unannounced Inspection Push

To further protect historically overburdened communities, EPA will “use its authority to conduct unannounced inspections of suspected non-compliant facilities,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced earlier this year. The Agency will further its commitment to environmental justice through additional actions, including:

 

  • Deploying a new program to expand air monitoring capacity, utilizing assets such as the ASPECT airplane, GMAP mobile air monitoring vehicle, and additional air pollution inspectors to enhance enforcement.
  • Mobilizing Agency resources to invest in community air monitoring to better protect people and public health in vulnerable areas.
  • Increased monitoring and oversight of polluting facilities to hold companies more accountable for their actions.
 

Convenient, Effective Online EHS Manager Training

Managing site compliance with the many complex EPA programs that affect your business—from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to TSCA, EPCRA, CERCLA, and more—is a major challenge. If you’re new to the field or need an update on changing EPA rules, online training is a convenient way to quickly build in-depth expertise.

The Complete Environmental Regulations online course will prepare you to identify your site's liabilities and responsibilities under major environmental laws and regulations. This course is ideal for new EHS managers, environmental consultants, and anyone who wants clarity about how complex environmental requirements fit together. 

Or check out these courses on specific EPA programs:
 
Clean Air Act Regulations Online
TSCA Regulations Online
Clean Water Act & SDWA Regulations Online
Superfund and Right-to-Know Act Regulations Online 
 

Tags: environmental justice, EPA

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