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EPA Releases Updated Legal Guidance on Identifying, Addressing Cumulative Impacts to Advance Environmental Justice, Equity


January 14, 2023 - The US Environmental Protection Agency has announced the latest action to identify and address cumulative impacts from pollution and non-pollution sources. EPA’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) released the Cumulative Impacts Addendum to EPA Legal Tools to Advance Environmental Justice (EJ Legal Tools), available here. The Addendum is a first-ever collection of examples of the Agency’s legal authorities to identify and address cumulative impacts through a range of actions, including permitting, regulations, and grants, in order to consider the lived experience of communities overburdened by pollution and advance environmental justice.

This Addendum builds on EJ Legal Tools, which OGC released in May 2022, by identifying for EPA decisionmakers and partners a wide range of authorities that can be deployed to address the cumulative impacts of pollutants in the environment and other factors affecting human health and well-being that have a disproportionate impact on communities with environmental justice concerns. The Addendum is the latest step in the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to address environmental justice and equity through federal actions.

“At EPA, we’re committed to protecting the health and environment of all communities, including those historically marginalized, overburdened, underserved, and living with the legacy of structural racism,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “That commitment means identifying and making appropriate use of every authority and tool available to EPA under the law to incorporate environmental and climate justice considerations in our work. EJ Legal Tools, and now the Cumulative Impacts Addendum, will help support EPA’s mission to advance environmental justice and deliver equitable health and environmental protections for all.”

"To further the promise of environmental justice, we must invest in tools that help identify and remedy the disproportionate burden of pollution that is too often borne by low-income communities and communities of color," said New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. "EPA's publication of EJ Legal Tools to Advance Environmental Justice, and the Cumulative Impacts Addendum released today, will further empower government entities and the communities we serve in the work to improve public health and the environment we share. New Jersey looks forward to collaborating with Administrator Regan and our EPA colleagues to develop additional cumulative impacts tools that will help enrich all communities, sow equity, and do justice."

Through Executive Orders 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, and 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, President Biden directed federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of their missions and announced the Administration’s policy of pursuing a comprehensive approach to advancing equity. To help achieve those goals, in EPA’s FY 2022–26 EPA Strategic Plan and E.O. 13985 Equity Action Plan, EPA established goals and priorities to advance environmental justice and address cumulative impacts in its actions.

Together, EJ Legal Tools and the Cumulative Impacts Addendum describe the legal foundation and pathways for EPA to implement the Agency’s Strategic Plan for integrating environmental justice and equity in agency programs across EPA headquarters and regional offices. They also serve as a guide for state and Tribal partners and provide transparency to the general public.

EJ Legal Tools and its Cumulative Impacts Addendum are crucial tools in EPA’s toolkit for promoting environmental justice and equity. They will help accelerate the integration of environmental justice and cumulative impacts considerations into EPA’s policies, programs, and activities.

Learn more about the EJ Legal Tools and the Cumulative Impacts Addendum.

Read EJ Legal Tools.

Learn more about Environmental Justice.