EPA’s Strategic Plan for the Future

21 Apr
EPA Strategic Plan

Environment

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On March 28, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration submitted to Congress the President’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2023 to support the Administration’s agenda to “build a better America, reduce the deficit, reduce costs for families, and grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out.”

Included in this budget is a historic investment of $11.881 billion to advance key priorities in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan, including targeted objectives and outcomes in the areas of climate change; environmental justice; compliance enforcement; clean land, air, and water; and chemical safety.

Unprecedented Commitments

Every four years, EPA issues a Strategic Plan that communicates the Agency’s vision, priorities, and strategies for accomplishing its mission to protect human health and the environment. Since William Ruckelshaus served as the first Administrator of the EPA from 1970 to 1973, the Strategic Plan has been built on three foundational principles: follow the science, follow the law, be transparent.

The FY 2022-2026 Plan renews EPA’s commitment to these principles and adds a fourth to support Biden’s Justice40 initiative: advance justice and equity. Current EPA Administrator Michael Regan describes the EPA Strategic Plan as “bold and unprecedented in its commitment to advancing environmental justice and civil rights and tackling climate change.”

Roadmap to Protecting Human Health and the Environment

In the new Strategic Plan, EPA has established a roadmap to address climate change and environmental justice, in addition to its five programmatic areas of enforcement and compliance, air quality, water quality, land revitalization, and chemical safety. The Plan outlines the following seven long-term performance goals (LTPGs) and related objectives and quantifiable outcome to achieve by 2026.

Goal 1: Tackle the Climate Crisis

EPA is focused on further reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by promulgating rules to reduce pollution from the power sector, setting vehicle emission standards, and partnering with the public and private sectors communities (especially those underserved and disproportionally at risk) to increase energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.

In addition, there is $100 million in grants to support efforts to reduce GHG emissions and increase resiliency in the nation’s infrastructure and $35 million to implement the American Innovation in Manufacturing Act to continue phasing out GHGs.

Goal 2: Take Decisive Action to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights

Environmental justice and civil rights will be embedded into EPA’s programs, policies, and activities to reduce disparities in environmental and public health conditions. This includes:

  • Ensuring 80% of significant EPA actions with environmental justice implications clearly demonstrate how the action responds to environmental justice concerns.
  • Identifying and implementing opportunities to integrate environmental justice and achieve civil rights compliance into planning, guidance, policy directives, monitoring, and review activities.
  • Supporting Justice40 commitment to ensure at least 40% of the benefits of federal investments in climate and clean energy reach overburdened and underserved communities.
  • Requiring all state recipients of EPA financial assistance to have foundational civil rights programs in place.
  • Strengthening civil rights enforcement in communities with environmental justice concerns through civil rights and compliance reviews, audits, and community outreach.
  • Proposing a new national environmental justice program office to coordinate and maximize the benefits of the Agency’s programs and activities.

Goal 3: Enforce Environmental Laws and Ensure Compliance

EPA intends to continue its enforcement path, holding environmental violators and responsible parties accountable. Significant investments are being made to enforce and assure compliance with the nation’s environmental laws, including $213 million for civil enforcement efforts, $148 million for compliance monitoring efforts, and $69 million for criminal enforcement efforts.

The Agency also has plans to improve inspections by sending 75% of EPA inspection reports to facilities within 70 days of inspection and conducting 55% of annual EPA inspections at facilities that affect communities with potential environmental justice concerns.

Goal 4: Ensure Clean and Healthy Air for All Communities

EPA has budgeted $1.1 billion to improve air quality and reduce localized pollution, reduce exposure to radiation, and improve indoor air for communities across the country. This plan includes reducing ozone season emissions of nitrogen oxides, improving measured air quality in counties not meeting the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), reducing U.S. consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and preventing 2,250 lung cancer deaths annually through lower radon exposure.

Goal 5: Ensure Clean and Safe Water for All Communities

Approximately $4 billion is dedicated to upgrading the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on underserved communities. This includes reducing the number of community water systems still in noncompliance with health-based standards; leveraging EPA’s water infrastructure finance programs (CWSRF, DWSRF, WIFIA); providing Tribal, small, rural, or underserved communities with technical, managerial, or financial assistance to improve their drinking water or wastewater systems; and protecting and restoring waterbodies and watersheds. There are 20 new targeted water grant programs available to support EPA’s goal to ensure safe drinking water and reliable water infrastructure.

Goal 6: Safeguard and Revitalize Communities

Protecting communities from hazardous waste and environmental damage that can harm communities and that poses a risk to public health and safety continues to be a top priority. $1.15 billion is being allocated to EPA’s Superfund programs and $215 million for Brownfields programs to clean up and restore land to productive use, including:

  • Bringing human exposures under control at an additional 60 Superfund sites.
  • Completing 225 Superfund cleanup projects that address lead as a contaminant.
  • Cleaning up an additional 650 brownfields properties.
  • Making an additional 425 RCRA corrective action cleanups Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use (SWRAU).
  • Conducting an additional 35,000 cleanups at leaking underground storage tank (UST) facilities.
  • Increasing the percentage of updated permits at RCRA facilities to 80%.
  • Ensuring that 40% of annual emergency response and removal exercises that EPA conducts or participates in incorporate environmental justice.

Goal 7: Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment

There is a large focus on strengthening EPA’s commitment and ability to successfully implement the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). $124 million and 449 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff for TSCA efforts will support EPA-initiated chemical risk evaluations and regulations. This includes completing at least eight High Priority Substance TSCA risk evaluations annually and initiating TSCA risk management actions within 45 days of completing the evaluation.

In addition, EPA has set aside $126 million to increase its understanding of human health and ecological effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollution, restrict its uses, and remediate PFAS that have been released.

Short-Term Focus

For the short-term, EPA has also identified three FY 2022-2023 Agency Priority Goals (APGs), which are intended to “jumpstart actions and showcase progress toward Administrator Regan’s priorities related to climate change, environmental justice, and civil rights” by September 30, 2023:

  1. Phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 10% to be consistent with the schedule in the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. This would decrease the U.S. consumption limit to less than 273.5 MMTCO2e in 2023.
  2. Deliver tools, guidance, metrics/indicators, and training for EPA and its Tribal, state, local, and community partners to advance environmental justice and external civil rights compliance.
  3. Clean up contaminated sites and invest in water infrastructure to enhance the livability and economic vitality of at least ten overburdened and underserved communities.

Set Your Goals

With EPA focused on more regulations, more enforcement, and improved climate change and environmental justice, environmental management needs to play an integral role in company strategy. Companies must take the time to be informed—particularly in the strategic areas described above—be prepared, and be proactive. Establish companywide priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to ensure programs and systems are in place to achieve regulatory compliance and align with EPA’s Strategic Plan.

If you would like help evaluating your current risk level and assessing your priorities, please contact KTL. 

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