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In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda: Environmental Justice Strategic Plan 2016-2020. The plan is available for review and public comment until July 7, 2016.
By 2020, the EPA envisions itself to be an agency that integrates environmental justice into all of its actions, while cultivating strong partnerships with a variety of stakeholders, and charting the course for achieving decreased disparities in the nation’s overburdened communities. The EPA plans to achieve this through three goals:
- Deepening environmental justice practice within agency programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities;
- Developing and maintaining partnerships to expand the agency’s positive impact within overburdened communities; and
- Demonstrating progress on known environmental justice challenges, with a specific focus on lead disparities, drinking water quality, air quality, and hazardous waste sites.
Achieving these goals relies on a multi-faceted team approach that includes working with multiple stakeholders, including, but not limited to, state and local government partners; community-based organizations and tribal leadership; and working groups focused on specific issues (such as the presence of heavy metals in drinking water).
In addition to this draft strategic plan, the EPA is working toward environmental justice through its Environmental Justice Academy, launched by EPA Region 4. The purpose of the academy is to “better equip community leaders to address health and environmental challenges.” The academy provides nine months of in-depth leadership programming, and encourages participants to develop skills that will help them identify and address environmental challenges in their communities. Program such as the Environmental Justice Academy is a step in helping the EPA achieve the second goal of its 2020 strategic plan. The environmental justice academy’s first class completed the program this May.