20 State Attorneys General Push Congress to Address Environmental Justice | King and Spalding


The advancement of environmental justice (“EJ”) is a central pillar of the Biden administration. Beginning with President Biden’s executive order “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad”,1 Signed during its first week in office, the Biden administration has taken significant steps to address environmental justice in three main areas: environmental law enforcement, environmental permits and reviews, and use by environmental agencies. their funding.2 For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has prioritized JE in enforcement through targeted initiative and various policies.3 The EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) even promotes its recent enforcement cases reflecting its efforts to strengthen “enforcement to help advance the protection of disproportionately affected environmental justice communities. by pollution ”.4

Many states are also advancing environmental justice with their own initiatives. Earlier this year, the California Attorney General announced the expansion of the California Department of Justice’s Office of Environmental Justice to include “11 attorneys dedicated solely to addressing environmental injustices statewide. California and giving voice to frontline communities which are all too often underfunded and overburdened.5 The Massachusetts Attorney General has launched a Clean Air Initiative including air monitoring, online tip reporting and law enforcement to tackle illegal idling in environmental justice communities,6 and the New York State Attorney General has taken legal action against property management companies to protect children from the dangers of lead paint in their low-income rental properties.7


Earlier this month, a coalition of Democratic attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to congressional leaders demanding that Congress act to fight climate change and environmental justice.8 As demanded by the GA, Congress “must respond fully to the climate emergency”, “must prioritize environmental justice” and “must adopt both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and budget legislation that provides the funding needed to respond to the climate crisis and deliver long-awaited environmental justice for our most vulnerable communities. “9

According to state GAs, Congress should respond to the “climate emergency” by (1) promoting clean and renewable energy, (2) investing in the electrification of transportation, (3) encouraging efficiency and energy conservation, (4) by funding zero emission schools. buses, and (5) fight against methane pollution.ten In addition to a comprehensive response to the climate emergency, Congress must make environmental justice a priority and “must strengthen and support government and state actions by prioritizing substantial additional investments in justice environmental “.11 The coalition urges Congress to prioritize investments in specific areas, including ensuring clean water for all, clean air for all, protecting the voice of the community in government decisions, and “[c]In accordance with Executive Order 14,008, we urge Congress to seek to ensure that 40% of improvements funded by budget legislation benefit overburdened communities.12

The JE requests of state AGs underscore the ubiquitous importance of the JE in all aspects of law, regulation, and social policy in the United States. in all areas of legal compliance and review state-specific requirements and developments. While this coalition of state AGs will likely continue to pressure Congress to act to advance environmental justice, businesses should expect state-level AGs to target JE. as a new legal measure of compliance.

1See Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” January 27, 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/DCPD-202100095/pdf/DCPD-202100095.pdf.

2See, for example, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and National Climate Advisor, “Interim Implementation Guidance for the ‘Justice40 initiative’, July 20, 2021, https: / /www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/M-21-28.pdf.

3See, for example, EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”), “Environmental Justice Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Initiative”, https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/environmental-justice-enforcement-and-compliance-assurance-initiative ( web page linking enforcement policy memoranda and other documents).

4Identifier. (web page identifying “recent cases of law enforcement benefiting disproportionately affected communities”).

5See “Attorney General Bonta Announces Expansion of Office of Environmental Justice,” April 28, 2021, https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-bonta-announces-expansion-bureau-environmental -justice.

6See “AG Healey settles down with school bus company over unnecessary idling in New Bedford schools; Launch public information campaign to fight illegal idling ”, September 9, 2021, https://www.mass.gov/news/ag-healey-settles-with-school-bus-company-over-unnecessary -idling-at-the-schools-in-new-bedford-is-launching-a-public-information-campaign-to-reduce-idling.

7See “Attorney General James Takes Action to Protect Children and Families from Lead Poisoning in New York City,” September 23, 2021, https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2021/attorney-general- james-takes-action-protecting-children-and-families-from-lead-poisoning.

8See Letter from the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia to Senators Carper, Manchin and Wyden and Representatives DeFazio, Pallone and Neal, September 14, 2021, https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/multistate_lettertocongress_reconciliation_9.14.21.pdf.

9See id. to 2 (emphasis in original).

tenSee id. to 2-7.

11See id. to 7-8.

12Identifier. at 8-11.

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