About the Author: Charles Lee is the Deputy Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice at EPA. Mr. Lee is widely recognized as a true environmental justice pioneer. He was the principal author of the landmark report, ‘Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States’. He helped to spearhead the emergence of a national environmental justice movement and federal action including Executive Order 12898, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice.
I recently asked a number of my EPA colleagues what they were most proud of about the EJ 2020 Action Agenda (or what we call EJ 2020). Each of them expressed how EJ 2020 represents an intensive effort across all regions, program offices, and by all levels of the organization to focus our attention on how to best connect communities most-in-need of environmental help with EPA’s practical solutions.
During the past year, EPA has been hard at work developing EJ 2020, the agency’s strategy for environmental justice for 2016-2020. Building on Plan EJ 2014, as well as decades of significant environmental justice practice within communities and among our governmental partners and stakeholders, we have crafted a strategy that envisions an EPA that integrates environmental justice into everything we do, cultivates strong partnerships to improve on-the-ground results, and charts a path forward for achieving better environmental outcomes and reducing disparities in the nation’s most overburdened communities.
EJ 2020 has been developed based on stakeholder input representing the real environmental challenges facing American communities today. This strategy takes a big step forward by holding ourselves accountable for measureable progress in achieving better environmental outcomes and reducing disparities.
EJ 2020 has three overarching goals:
- Deepen environmental justice practice in EPA’s programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities;
- Work with partners to expand our positive impact in overburdened communities; and
- Demonstrate progress on significant national environmental justice challenges.
EJ 2020 will involve every EPA office in every region of the country. It consists of eight priority areas and four significant national environmental justice challenges.
- Under Goal I, we will focus on: Rulemaking, Permitting, Enforcement, and Science.
- Under Goal II, we will focus on: States and Local Governments, Federal Agencies, Community-Based Work, and Tribes and Indigenous Peoples.
- Under Goal III, we will focus on: Lead Disparities, Small and Tribal Drinking Water Systems, Fine Particle Air Pollution, and Hazardous Waste Sites.
Each of these priority areas and environmental justice challenges have their own section in the strategy which outlines the agency’s objectives, the plan for achieving them, and how we will measure success.
By achieving our vision, we will help to make America’s vulnerable, environmentally burdened, and economically disadvantaged communities healthier, cleaner and more sustainable places in which to live, work, play and learn.
Our vision and goals for 2020 were informed by the input we have received from the communities we serve, our partners and all stakeholder groups. Last year, we conducted extensive outreach and sought input on the draft framework for the EJ 2020 strategy. Today, we share the final draft of the EJ 2020 Action Agenda for a second round of input and public comment. In sharing the details of EJ 2020, we invite your feedback on how to make it a stronger strategy, as well as your thoughts on how we can best implement its commitments. To review the final draft of EJ 2020, please visit EPA’s EJ 2020 website- https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/ej-2020-action-agenda.
Our public comment period will be from May 23, 2016 to July 7, 2016. Also, we will have two webinars where we go over the Action Agenda, and they are scheduled for Thursday, June 2nd from 2 to 3:30 EST, and June 7th, from 3:00 to 4:30 EST.
Please also sign up for our EJ listserv to find out when we will have webinars in the next few weeks. You can learn about EJ 2020 and how EPA will advance environmental justice to make a more visible difference in the environmental and public health landscape over the next five years.