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EPA’s acting chief of enforcement sent a memo to staff last week (that The Hill obtained) calling for them to “[s]trengthen enforcement in overburdened communities by resolving environmental noncompliance through remedies with tangible benefits for the community” with a particular emphasis on “cornerstone environmental statutes.” This guidance appears to be implementing Administrator Michael Regan’s directive from earlier in April to strengthen enforcement and help advance the protection of communities, using existing resources to advance environmental justice (EJ) goals. EPA staff is also asked to “think creatively” about developing settlement agreements related to pollution-related noncompliance — this is a tactic used in lieu of monetary penalties that the Trump administration had ended but that the Justice Department recently revived.
As The Hill explains, the Biden administration has said that addressing the environmental issues that disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities is a major priority, and they are putting real money behind their talk — The White House included $1.4 billion for EJ in its budget request for fiscal 2022. The EPA memo specifically calls on staff to use offsite compliance monitoring tools to:
Prevent further pollution due to noncompliance, mitigate past impacts from pollution, and seek penalties for violations that impact overburdened communities;
Seek early and innovative relief, e.g., fence-line monitoring and transparency tools;
Incorporate Supplement Environmental Projects (SEPs) in settlements, where appropriate; and
Assist and seek to obtain restitution for victims of environmental crimes.
But, but, but Inspections Hard During Pandemic
One limitation, however, on the ability to resume enforcement is the EPA’s ability to perform inspections that would identify actual violations during the “continuing COVID-19 health crisis.” The pandemic “constrains” the ability of the agency inspectors to safely visit facilities and the agency says that the health of their employees is a top priority. But the memo states that when “an inspection can be safely performed and failure to inspect a facility could threaten to impact the community’s health (e.g., where health effects are reported in an overburdened community), then an inspection to assess the threat would be deemed mission-critical and appropriate under Agency guidance.”
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The Weather Channel broadcast that this summer, the U.S will be a “tick time-bomb,” in that ticks will afflict much broader swathes of the country than in years previous. Even in dry states like California, which is in a historic drought, researchers have been seeing more ticks than ever, […]
Greenways are bike paths that often serve as multi-use, car-free ways to navigate a city. Right now, the U.S. network “comprises a similarly haphazard collection of park-like bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented paths,” as CityLab reports, but that could change if environmental and transportation advocates can land $10 billion for a Greenway Stimulus in the infrastructure deal being negotiated in Congress right now.
Why This Matters: Getting people out of cars and into other modes of getting around is one of the best ways to ramp down carbon emissions in the transportation sector as well as ramp up health and fitness.
Preventing and preparing for pandemics is now a crucial task for world leaders. A crucial part of preventing pandemics is the protection of nature and the conservation of biodiversity. This week we had a chance to ask Conservation International’s new pandemic prevention fellow, Dr. Neil Vora, about why safeguarding our natural world is so important […]
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