On January 11, 2023 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of General Counsel released the Cumulative Impacts Addendum (download). This Addendum adds details to addressing cumulative impacts as a  follow up to EJ Legal Tools to Advance Environmental Justice, released in May 2022. These two documents, and any future revisions of these documents, are intended to describe how this Administration will address environmental justice (EJ) issues and create equity through federal enforcement.

The Addendum has different chapters on various environmental areas:

  1. Clean Air Act Programs
  2. Water Programs
  3. Waste Management and Emergency Response Programs
  4. Pesticides and Toxic Programs
  5. Environmental Review Programs
  6. Civil Rights in Federal Assistance Programs

These chapters break down the EPA’s legal authority to address the various areas covered through a variety of pre-existing legislation related to industry environmental impacts. This legislative slate includes items familiar to those in permitting programs and emergency response both: National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and others.

The Addendum provides examples on how the EPA intends to address environmental justice concerns through these regulations, addressing permitting, cleanup, funding, state oversight, and grants. As a timely example, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has a goal of increasing their percentage of on-site inspections in communities with potential EJ concerns from 30% to 55% by FY 2026. OECA recently released their 2022 report, which showed that they outperformed their 2026 goal and achieved 56% of their on-site inspections in overburdened communities.

The Addendum also details  addressing cumulative impacts or the aggregate impacts of both multi-chemical stressors and non-chemical stressors. The EPA states that cumulative exposures can “cause, perpetuate or exacerbate disproportionate environmental and public health harms and risks.” The EPA is focused on minimizing or preventing these types of public health impacts, especially in vulnerable  populations.

These two documents were generated under Executive Order (EO) 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, and EO 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. These EOs are how this Administration is authorizing the EPA and other federal agencies to advance the EJ cause and integrate it into various policies, programs, and activities.

CTEH recognizes that EJ is a rapidly changing landscape that affects a vast array of topics. We have a team of dedicated experts that keep abreast of these changes to regulatory and litigation spaces.