Monday, September 18, 2006

EPA Is Not Conducting Environmental Justice Reviews

Sep 18: U.S. EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a report entitled, EPA Needs to Conduct Environmental Justice Reviews of Its Programs, Policies, and Activities (Report No. 2006-P-00034, September 18, 2006). OIG found that EPA senior management has not sufficiently directed program and regional offices to conduct environment justice reviews in accordance with Executive Order 12898. Consequently, the majority of respondents reported their programs or offices have not performed environmental justice reviews. Though some offices may not be subject to an environmental justice review, the respondents expressed a need for further guidance to conduct reviews, including protocols, a framework, or additional directions. Until these program and regional offices perform environmental justice reviews, the Agency cannot determine whether its programs cause disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.

Executive Order 12898 was signed on February 11, 1994. In August 2001, the EPA Administrator issued a memorandum reaffirming the Agency’s commitment to environmental justice. On November 4, 2005, the EPA Administrator issued another memorandum reaffirming the Agency’s commitment to environmental justice and directing Agency officials “to implement [EPA] programs and activities to ensure that they do not adversely affect populations with critical environmental and public health issues, including minority and low-income communities.” The 2005 memorandum also directed “EPA to more fully and effectively integrate environmental justice considerations into its programs, policies, and activities” and “to incorporate environmental justice considerations into its planning and budgeting processes.”

OIG recommended that the EPA Deputy Administrator: (1) Require the Agency’s program and regional offices to identify which programs, policies, and activities need environmental justice reviews and require these offices to establish a plan to complete the necessary reviews; (2) Ensure that environmental justice reviews determine whether the programs, policies, and activities may have a disproportionately high and adverse health or environmental impact on minority and low-income populations; (3) Require each program and regional office to develop, with the assistance of the Office of Environmental Justice, specific environmental justice review guidance, which includes protocols, a framework, or directions for conducting environmental justice reviews; and (4) Designate a responsible office to (a) compile the results of environmental justice reviews, and (b) recommend appropriate actions to review findings and make recommendations to the decisionmaking office’s senior leadership. OIG said EPA accepted its recommendations.

Access the OIG report (click here). [*P2]