The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set out a five-year plan Thursday to guide how it will ensure that its programs properly protect the health and environment of minority communities.
The plan, dubbed the Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda, sets overarching goals and a framework for considering the needs of minorities in nearly all of the EPA’s work, such as enforcement of environmental laws, partnerships with local communities, writing regulations and granting permits.
It is the second environmental justice agenda from the EPA and is meant in part to answer sharp criticisms that the agency is not fulfilling its duties to examine how pollution specifically hurts minorities.
“EPA is committed to ensuring every community in the United States has access to clean air, water and land,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Obama to attend Glasgow climate summit White House puts together climate finance strategy MORE said in a statement.
“EJ 2020 is a product of listening to people in communities to better understand the challenges they face, and working closely with local leaders to identify solutions together.”
The agenda focuses on three areas: deepening environmental justice within EPA programs, working with others to improve the agency’s impact on minority communities and putting a focus on national priorities in environmental justice.
The EPA has weathered significant criticism recently in how its programs serve minority communities. Examples include the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich.’s drinking water, and complaints regarding a coal ash dump near a majority-black community in Alabama.
The latter case was the main focus of a Commission on Civil Rights investigation that concluded earlier this year that the EPA has “failed miserably” in its duties to protect minorities.
But McCarthy says Thursday’s plan means the agency is committed to its mandate.
“Far too often, I’ve seen how minority, low-income, and indigenous groups are most affected by environmental and public health challenges,” she wrote in a blog post.
“EJ 2020 provides a roadmap for us to move forward, together, in a more productive and holistic way,” McCarthy said. “This means listening to community leaders and residents and better understanding the burdens they face so that we strategically focus our resources. This is how we will truly make a difference in our country’s most overburdened communities.”