EPA Adopts Civil Rights Enforcement of Environmental Laws

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving from a largely reactive stance on civil rights to one that aggressively ventures into the field on its own initiative, seeking out areas of greatest concern, launching reviews of rigorous compliance and rethinking the way it awards grants, prioritizes its resources and enforces the law, reports Bloomberg News.

To help it take a more proactive stance, the External Civil Rights Compliance Office is stepping up its communications with the Department of Justice — which itself has prioritized environmental justice — and is working with all of the Department’s offices. EPA to “find out how they can include core civil rights obligations in everything they publish,” said Lillian Dorka, director of the agency’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office.

The office is also preparing instructions for states and other grant recipients on the procedural safeguards they must have in place to comply with the federal civil rights law, which will address requirements such as grievance procedures. to deal with accusations of discrimination and access for people with limited English proficiency or disabilities.

Dorka’s office is “receiving more complaints than ever before”, with more than 20 since the start of the fiscal year. She speculated that the increase is happening because “people think this administration takes its commitment to strengthening federal civil rights laws seriously — that we’re not going to put something aside and let it go.” rest for 20 years”.

However, the office is also understaffed, with only 12 full-time employees. The White House budget for fiscal year 2022 will more than double that number. Meanwhile, some critics argue that the EPA is not a civil rights organization, that it is utterly unequipped to be one, and that it should not be used as a vehicle to promote vague and unrelated societal goals.

Further Reading: Racial Segregation and Environmental Justice, The Crime Report, October 5, 2021