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Highlights

Executive Order 12898 made achieving "environmental justice" part of the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies. According to EPA, environmental justice involves fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes. EPA developed guidance for considering environmental justice during the development of rules under the Clean Air Act and other activities. GAO was asked to examine how EPA considered environmental justice during two phases of developing clean air rules: (1) drafting the rule, including activities of the workgroup that considered regulatory options, the economic review of the rule's costs, and making the proposed rule available for public comment, and (2) finalizing the rule, including addressing public comments and revising the economic review. GAO reviewed the three clean air rules described in the next column.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency In order to ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately identified and considered when clean air rules are being drafted and finalized, the EPA Administrator should ensure that the workgroups devote attention to environmental justice while drafting and finalizing clean air rules.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has made progress in several areas, particularly the following: 1) The agency developed an agencywide process and a set of protocols for the conduct of environmental justice program reviews for the standard setting and rulemaking/regulatory development function. 2) EPA kicked off an environmental justice workgroup on incorporating environmental justice considerations in regulatory development as a cross cutting priority that will focus agency attention and resources on environmental justice issues. 3) The Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), which is now an ex officio member of the Agency?s Regulatory Steering Committee that oversees regulatory policy and rule development, led to the creation of a draft guidance document to help agency offices identify opportunities where environmental justice can be evaluated in rulemaking. 4) Also OEJ participated in two air rulemakings of particular interest to the environmental justice communities in 2008. 5) EPA developed a template for discussion of environmental justice in the form used to alert senior managers about potential issues once a workgroup chair is designated for a rulemaking
Environmental Protection Agency In order to ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately identified and considered when clean air rules are being drafted and finalized, the EPA Administrator should enhance the workgroups' ability to identify potential environmental justice issues through such steps as (1) providing workgroup members with guidance and training to help them identify potential environmental justice problems and (2) involving environmental justice coordinators in the workgroups when appropriate.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has made progress in several areas, particularly the following: 1) EPA developed an environmental justice module to its training for rulemaking and developed a flow chart identifying points where discussion and analysis of environmental justice issues would be appropriate in rulemaking. 2) The agency periodically offered rule-writers a webinar called Environmental Justice Considerations in Rulemaking. 3) Also, the Office of Environmental Justice offered other courses on environmental justice. 4) In 2007 EPA required training for all regulatory policy staff to familiarize them with Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and the relevance to their work. 5) EPA's Air Office established a team to increase awareness of environmental justice and developed a policy for how the air office will integrate environmental justice into its programs, policies, and activities. 6) In 2009 the air office completed a draft review of a Tribal New Source Review Permit rules using the protocol for conducting environmental justice program reviews.7) EPA's economic guidelines are being updated to highlight the process for an equity assessment. 8) EPA is working to create a scientific foundation to better quantify and characterize the disproportionate environmental health impacts on minority and low-income populations.
Environmental Protection Agency In order to ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately identified and considered when clean air rules are being drafted and finalized, the EPA Administrator should improve assessments of potential environmental justice impacts in economic reviews by identifying the data and developing the modeling techniques that are needed to assess such impacts.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has made progress. In particular, EPA's Office of Air and Radiation added additional demographic variables to its environmental mapping and benefits mapping and analysis program, BenMAP. The census tract ranking tool will be used to help identify communities of concern. In addition, the office completed two analyses of distributional impacts for selected rulemakings.
Environmental Protection Agency In order to ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately identified and considered when clean air rules are being drafted and finalized, the EPA Administrator should direct cognizant officials to respond fully, when feasible, to public comments on environmental justice, for example, by better explaining the rationale for EPA's beliefs and by providing its supporting data.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has made progress. In particular, a portion of rulemaking training emphasizes the importance of public participation and encourages rule-writers to respond to environmental justice comments in the final rule respectfully and thoughtfully. Also, the Environmental Justice Workgroup on Incorporating EJ Considerations in Regulatory Development will make public participation an important part of its deliberations and work products.

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