On May 5, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (“USDOJ”) announced the launch of a new comprehensive environmental justice (“EJ”) strategy. The three-prong strategy, as laid out by the U.S. Attorney General in an internal memorandum, includes:
- The creation of The Office of Environmental Justice under the Environmental Natural Resources Division within the USDOJ, which will “serve as the central hub” in this new strategy.
- The issuance of the Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy memorandum to “guide the work of the Justice Department’s litigators, investigators, and United States Attorneys’ offices nationwide to advance the cause of environmental justice through the enforcement of federal laws.”
- The issuance of an Interim Final Rule restoring the use of Supplemental Environmental Projects which will be subject the Guidelines and Limitations for Settlement Agreements Involving Payments to Non-Governmental Third Parties as set forth in the memorandum issued in accompaniment of the Interim Final Rule.
Supplemental Environmental Projects (“SEPs”) are projects that are undertaken by an alleged violator as part of a settlement agreement to resolve an enforcement action. SEPs “provide tangible environmental or public health benefits to the affected community or environment, that is closely related to the violation being resolved, but goes beyond what is required under federal, state or local laws.”
Many states have a list of pre-approved SEPs from which a respondent (i.e. the alleged violator) may choose to pursue; or, alternatively, a respondent may develop and propose a SEP for approval by the regulating agency. The following are just a few of the states that provide additional helpful information regarding SEPs: