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EPA’s Environmental Justice Initiative at Work

Posted on 9/13/2021 by Lauren Scott

In April, US EPA’s new administrator outlined the agency’s Accelerating Environmental and Economic Justice initiative to protect overburdened and marginalized communities. The initiative is gaining wide traction through EPA’s grants, community partnerships, and…enforcement actions.

Companies operating in these historically underserved communities may face unique challenges, including EPA inspections and impact assessments among other actions intended to benefit the surrounding pollution-burdened areas.

By emphasizing environmental justice, EPA plans to:
  • Strengthen enforcement of cornerstone environmental statutes in communities overburdened by pollution.
  • Incorporate environmental justice considerations into its work, including assessing impacts to pollution-burdened, underserved, and Tribal communities in regulatory development processes and to consider regulatory options to maximize benefits to these communities.
  • Improve early and more frequent engagement with pollution-burdened and underserved communities affected by agency rulemakings, permitting and enforcement decisions, and policies.
  • Consider and prioritize direct and indirect benefits to underserved communities in the development of requests for grant applications and in making grant award decisions, to the extent allowed by law.


Environmental Justice in EPA Enforcement Actions

EPA has already announced several enforcement actions taken under the environmental justice initiative. On August 26, EPA announced a settlement with an oil company related to its facility in Montebello, CA. Montebello is about eight miles east of downtown Los Angeles, home to about 61,000 residents (according to the latest census data), and is known for its oil reserves.

Oil production operations throughout the 20th century contributed to environmental challenges that the city faces to this day, according to environmental groups. EPA has described Montebello as a “historically marginalized and overburdened community that experiences high cumulative pollution exposure.”

As part of its environmental justice initiative, EPA conducted an inspection at a Montebello oil facility in October 2019. Investigators claim to have found violations of Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations as a result. Alleged violations include failure to conduct assessments and maintain certifications for tanks storing hazardous waste and failure to maintain records regarding compliance with RCRA Air Emission Requirements.

As a result, the company agreed to pay a $132,676 civil penalty. This is an excellent example of why facility managers and compliance officers must always be vigilant of new and changing EPA priorities to help ensure that personnel are trained for any challenges they may face.
 

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, CERLCA, 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: enforcement, EPA, fines, penalties

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