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EPA Publishes Documents Related to Environmental Justice and the Permitting Process

05/09/13

Source: SOCMA and EPA
Related Topics: US Environmental Protection Agency
Today, as part of its attempts under Plan EJ 2014 to integrate environmental justice into all of its programs, EPA published two documents:  Actions that EPA Regional Offices Are Taking to Promote Meaningful Engagement in the Permitting Process by Overburdened Communities and Promising Practices for Permit Applicants Seeking EPA Issued Permits: Ways to Engage Neighboring Communities. (Both documents can be found at: http://epa.gov/environmentaljustice/plan-ej/permitting.html )

These documents represent EPA’s response to comments that the Agency received on proposals issued for comment in the summer of 2012.  The goal, according to EPA, is “to promote greater participation in the permitting process by communities that have historically been underrepresented in that process.”   The document also “describes promising practices for permit applicants that are designed to encourage and assist permit applicants to reach out to neighboring communities when applying for permits that may affect communities’ quality of life, including their health and environment.” 

EPA stresses that the documents “are not an interpretation of environmental statutes, nor do they add to or change interpretations of statutory obligations regarding permitting contained in existing regulations.  They create no legal obligations and in no way change the legal landscape of the EPA permitting process.”  The Agency added that it was issuing EPA Actions to “encourage more transparency and consistency in EPA’s permitting process with the goal of increasing meaningful engagement of overburdened communities in that process.”

While acknowledging that it already has a legal obligation to provide opportunities for public involvement in the permitting process, EPA added that it believes that in “some circumstances it is appropriate to go beyond the minimum public involvement requirements of statutes and regulations to encourage the participation of communities that will be significantly impacted by a permit but that have historically been underrepresented in the permitting process.”  The Agency also noted that it was developing EPA Actions “to more effectively target outreach resources for the most meaningful engagement and to provide guidance to its permitting programs in regional and headquarters offices.”

Through Promising Practices, EPA hopes to “encourage permit applicants to strategically plan and conduct enhanced outreach to overburdened communities in the permitting process.”  Again, while the Agency acknowledges that EPA has recommended some of the strategies previously, it stated that it was “important to encourage greater use of practices” which can be beneficial in the environmental justice and permitting context. 






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