DOJ and EPA Announce Comprehensive Strategy to Deliver Environmental Justice Nationwide | Hinshaw & Culbertson – Information for Insurers
The grip of the “whole of government” approach to sustainability continues to tighten. Through a May 5, 2022 memorandum from the Associate United States Attorney General, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a comprehensive strategy detailing how whose agencies plan to ensure “environmental justice” through a national environmental justice enforcement strategy. As we noted in a previous alert, federal government action in this area could signal broader federal oversight of the insurance industry than has traditionally been the case.
This plan comes about 15 months after President Biden issued Executive Order No. 4008 Tackling the climate crisis at home and abroadwhich instructed the Attorney General to “ensure comprehensive attention to environmental justice throughout the Department of Justice” and, more specifically, to “develop a comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy, which will seek to provide timely remedy for violations and systemic contaminations of the environment, and harm to natural resources[.]”This strategy is intended to provide a “roadmap for using the Department of Justice’s civil and criminal authorities, in collaboration with the EPA and other federal partners, to advance environmental justice through prompt remedies. and effective for systemic violations and contaminations of the environment and for damage to natural resources in underserved communities that have historically been marginalized and overburdened, including low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal and indigenous communities . »
The program seems to come straight out of the government’s bureaucratic manual. First, create a department. In this case, the Attorney General announced the creation of an Environmental Justice Office within the ENRD. The Office of Environmental Justice will be led by longtime DOJ senior litigation counsel, Cynthia Ferguson.
Second, fill the office with government bureaucrats.
“As one of its first acts, this new office will convene a standing DOJ Environmental Justice Enforcement Steering Committee. The steering committee will be co-chaired by the ENRD Deputy Attorneys General and Civil Rights Division, or their The committee will include representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Assistant Attorney General as well as the ENRD, Civil Rights Division, Civil Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys (EOUSA), Office of justice programs, the Office of Tribal Justice, the Office of Access to Justice, the Community Relations Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, departmental law enforcement agencies, and other relevant components.”
“Each United States Attorney should designate an Environmental Justice Coordinator within their office. In addition, each United States Attorney’s Office should consider appropriate outreach efforts to identify areas of environmental justice concern. in communities within its district, and shall establish and publish a procedure for members of the public to report environmental justice issues within the jurisdiction of this office.”
Third, fund the program. In its 2023 budget, the Biden administration is asking for $1.4 million to create the Office of Environmental Justice and $6.5 million to address climate change in environmental justice communities. It does not seem that much positive results can be expected from government actors with these modest sums. But that’s probably just the beginning.
Fourth, develop protocols. In this case, protocols for assessing the impacts on environmental justice during investigations will be established.
“These protocols should include, at a minimum, a methodology to identify and assess (1) any actual or potential adverse public health or environmental impacts resulting from systemic environmental violations, contamination, or damage to natural resources , and (2) information regarding the affected community and potential remedies for public health or environmental harm. Each of these components, in consultation with their partner investigative or referral agencies, shall identify enforcement actions that are most likely to achieve significant reductions in impacts on overburdened and underserved communities, and must prioritize these issues.”
The plan also calls for transparency regarding environmental law enforcement efforts and their results.
Fifth, of course, there will be enforcement and litigation.