EPA Environmental Justice Council Meets as NACWA Efforts Ramp Up
EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) held its third public meeting of the year last week, highlighting the emphasis on environmental justice (EJ) issues by the new Biden-Harris Administration.
The NEJAC is a federal advisory committee composed of community activists, academics, and industry and government representatives that provides EPA with advice and recommendations concerning a broad range of EJ issues and how to integrate EJ considerations into EPA programs, policies and activities.
Last week’s NEJAC meeting focused on EPA recycling initiatives, finalizing a letter to EPA Administrator Regan outlining steps to advance equity in agency decision-making, and taking public comment on issues of concern to EJ communities.
Throughout the meeting, NEJAC members reiterated how the group intends to work closely with the newly formed White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). The WHEJAC, which includes among others a number of former and current NEJAC members, was established under Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (Jan. 27, 2021), to directly advise the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and increase the federal government’s efforts to address environmental injustice.
At several points during the meeting both public commenters and NEJAC members also expressed a strong desire to push EPA to adopt “polluter pays” policies that hold industries accountable for the environmental damage caused by their activities. Such messages strongly align with many NACWA advocacy priorities, including those outlined in NACWA’s recently submitted letter to EPA's PFAS Council detailing NACWA’s recommendations concerning EPA’s multi-year strategy to address PFAS.
In a related development, NACWA’s Environmental Justice Task Force is continuing its work to develop a statement of principles outlining how NACWA will engage in EJ issues moving forward from an advocacy and peer-to-peer learning standpoint. The Task Force, comprised of members of the Association’s Board of Directors, met this week and plans to present a draft document for the full Board to consider next month.
NACWA members with questions about the Association’s EJ efforts can contact Nathan Gardner-Andrews.