The United States Department of Justice created a plan for environmental justice on May 5, 2022. This plan outlined a new comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy to guide the Justice Department’s work. The plan also issued an Interim Final Rule that will restore the use of supplemental environmental projects in appropriate circumstances.
The Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) will be reinvigorated to focus on communities that need greater assistance with environmental issues. The OEJ will be a critical resource as the Justice Department implements the new comprehensive enforcement strategy.
What Does the Office of Environmental Justice Do?
According to the US Department of Justice, the OEJ will engage all Justice Department bureaus, components, and offices in the collective pursuit of environmental justice. The mission of the OEJ is to protect overburdened and underserved communities from the harm caused by environmental crimes, pollution, and climate change.
This includes the OEJ as the first line of reporting for the enforcement of environmental law due to negligence or intentional breaking of those laws.
For decades before 2017, EPA and ENRD relied upon environmental projects to provide redress to communities most directly affected by violations of federal environmental laws. For this reason, they are particularly powerful tools for advancing environmental justice.
What has Changed with Environmental Law?
Nothing has essentially changed with environmental law. The OEJ is meant to serve as a gateway for reporting and supporting local communities that have issues with environmental regulation due to local or contracted businesses & corporations.
The OEJ focuses specifically on environmental law regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. What this means is that it will be easier for anyone who has the need to report environmental issues to do so.
What’s the Difference Between the OEJ and the EPA?
The OEJ is a part of the US Department of Justice, while the EPA is an independent agency. The OEJ will primarily be responsible for upholding environmental law and handling enforcement when necessary.
While the EPA has restrictions on what it may and may not act on, it primarily introduces national regulations on environmental issues. If these regulations are ignored, punishments including fines, shutdowns, and jail time can be given out, and enforced by local or national authorities (depending on the circumstances).
The OEJ seeks to cut out the middleman in outstanding cases of environmental law negligence and dole out enforcement directly (when necessary).
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos, lead and other regulated substance information, remediation, or removal, or if you have general questions regarding environmental regulations, check the resources below:
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Members
IECA Common Questions & Answers