On May 26, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the General Counsel released EPA Legal Tools to Advance Environmental Justice (“EJ Legal Tools”). The document builds on and updates EPA’s 2011 Plan EJ 2014: Legal Tools. Nearly double in length and featuring a new chapter on civil rights laws, the May 2022 EJ Legal Tools provides EPA and its tribal, state, and local partners a compilation of legal authorities for advancing environmental justice. EJ Legal Tools addresses virtually every environmental statutory and regulatory regime, as well as civil rights statutes. Although EPA characterizes the document as “one tool, albeit an important one, in EPA’s toolkit for promoting environmental justice and equity,” when coupled with recently issued enforcement guidance by EPA and the Department of Justice prioritizing enforcement actions in the environmental justice arena, EJ Legal Tools evinces an intention to significantly ramp up environmental justice activities in all aspects of environmental law.
In the report, EPA does not prescribe specific actions, but instead catalogs and explains environmental and civil rights legal authorities that EPA and its partners can use to address environmental concerns in traditionally underserved areas.