Environmental Protection Agency Updates
Environmental Protection Agency Updates
Environmental Protection Agency Accepts Settlement Agreement Resolving Title VI Complaints Involving the CA Kettleman Hills Hazardous Waste Facility:
On August 10, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Rights (EPA OCR) reviewed and found acceptable the terms of a settlement agreement between the California Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, and El Pueblo Para El Aire y Agua Limpia to resolve issues related to a Title VI complaint involving the Kettleman Hills Hazardous Waste Facility. Although EPA OCR is not a party to the settlement agreement, the parties reached this settlement through EPA OCR’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Process with the assistance of a mediator provided by EPA OCR. In light of the settlement, EPA OCR plans to issue a resolution letter officially closing the complaint.
The resolution agreement is available at perma.cc/6RLR-NV67.
EPA Office for Civil Rights Releases Draft Strategic Plan for Public Comment:
On September 10, the EPA Office for Civil Rights (EPA OCR) released the FY 2015-2020 External Compliance and Complaints Draft Strategic Plan for public comment (www.epa.gov/ocr/external-compliance-title-vi-new-developments). The Draft Strategic Plan sets forth an overall strategy for EPA OCR to leverage internal resources and maximize them by thinking more globally as “One EPA.” The Draft Strategic Plan replaces past approaches with a more strategic approach to program enhancement and management. The Draft Strategic Plan also promotes mission-critical program accountability through measurable goals that will (1) institute strategic docket management to ensure prompt, effective and efficient complaint resolution; (2) invigorate a proactive compliance program; and 3) strengthen OCR’s workforce through strategic human capital planning, organizational development, technology and training to promote a high-performing organization. The Draft Strategic Plan not only sets out these three strategic goals, but it also provides measurement frameworks to evaluate the performance for each goal. The public comment period closed on October 13, 2015.
EPA Proposes to Amend Nondiscrimination Regulations and Holds Public Meetings:
On December 14, EPA published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) (go.usa.gov/cnHS4) to amend its Nondiscrimination Regulations in the Federal Register. EPA revised its regulations to be consistent with the regulations of other Federal agencies. The modifications will (1) reaffirm EPA’s discretion to initiate compliance reviews to ensure compliance with civil rights laws; (2) provide EPA with the ability to request and receive compliance information from recipients on a regular basis; (3) reaffirm EPA’s discretion to determine how to ensure the prompt, effective, and efficient resolution of its cases; and 4) reaffirm EPA’s enforcement discretion to tailor its approach to complaints to match their complexity, scope and nature. OCR hosted six outreach public meetings to solicit input and feedback on the NPRM by EPA’s critical partners and stakeholders. Public meetings took place in Chicago, Houston, North Carolina, Oakland, and Washington, D.C. The public comment period ended on March 14, 2016.
EPA Releases Draft Case Resolution Manual for Public Comment:
The EPA OCR posted its Draft Case Resolution Manual (CRM) for public comment on its website (go.usa.gov/cnRxH). The CRM will transform management of OCR’s complaint resolution docket. It will include standardized processes and templates and empower program staff and management to exercise EPA’s regulatory discretion and develop innovative approaches to collaborative case resolution. The CRM provides OCR with procedures, strategies and resources to promptly and efficiently evaluate, investigate, and resolve complaints and conduct compliance reviews.
Summer 2015 Newsletter updates
Summer 2014 newsletter updates
- EPA Title VI Complaint Investigation and Compliance Review Results in Expanded Protections for Migrant Agriculture Workers in Louisiana
- EPA Investigation Results in Expansion of Public Participation at Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Title VI Complaint Investigation and Compliance Review Results in Expanded Protections for Migrant Agriculture Workers in Louisiana:
In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) to provide critical protections for agriculture workers. The agreement resolved a Title VI complaint alleging that LDAF’s policy of requiring in-person interviews for Worker Protection Standard (WPS) investigations intentionally discriminated against migrant agriculture workers based on their national origin. The EPA investigation confirmed that LDAF did not perform a WPS investigation for an incident involving a specific worker allegedly exposed to pesticides due to its in-person interview requirement. In addition, the investigation revealed concerns regarding whether LDAF was providing adequate language assistance to ensure meaningful access to LDAF’s WPS program. The EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) also conducted a LEP compliance review and found that LDAF did not have an active language access program. Through the agreement with EPA, LDAF has volunteered to fulfill a number of commitments, including: 1) adopting and disseminating a written WPS Interview Policy to allow for telephonic interviews when a WPS complainant or witness is unavailable for an in-person interview(s); 2) providing LEP individuals meaningful access to its WPS program consistent with EPA’s LEP Guidance, as required by Title VI; 3)contracting for translators and/or interpreters; 4) conducting training consistent with the requirements of the agreement for all relevant LDAF employees; 5) conducting at least eight outreach sessions for relevant stakeholders across the state in which it will discuss LEP issues; and 6) providing to OCR and EPA Region 6 compliance reports that will identify the specific actions/steps that LDAF has taken to comply with the agreement. The complete agreement is here, and the findings of fact are here and here.
EPA Investigation Results in Expansion of Public Participation at Illinois Environmental Protection Agency:
In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to take a number of concrete steps to improve its public participation program. The agreement resolves a Title VI complaint alleging that IEPA intentionally discriminated against the African American residents of Ford Heights, Illinois, by not providing an opportunity for meaningful involvement in the decision-making process with the issuance of construction permits for the Midwest Micronutrients processing facility and for the trial use of wood biomass fuel at the Geneva Energy facility. The evidence gathered during the course of the Title VI investigation raised concerns about the adequacy of IEPA’s notice to the Ford Heights community. Through the agreement with EPA, IEPA has agreed to fulfill a number of commitments, including: 1) expanding the scope of its Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy (EJ PPP); 2) revising its EJ PPP so that permitting activities in areas identified as potential EJ communities will be given an appropriate level of outreach; 3) posting information on its website concerning grievances received pursuant to IEPA’s EJ Grievance Procedure and the IEPA’s response; 4) redesigning its online permit tracking system webpage to further facilitate the implementation of the EJ PPP; and 5) creating a system that will identify all projects in potential EJ communities and notifying IEPA’s EJ Officer who will determine the appropriate outreach activities. The complete agreement is here, and the closure letter is here.
San Joaquin Valley United Air Pollution Control District Increases Opportunities for Meaningful Public Involvement:
The Environmental Protection Agency strongly supports the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to address disputes and potential conflicts. Consistent with this policy and the EPA’s regulations implementing Title VI, EPA’s Office of Civil Rights encourages the use of informal resolution techniques, including ADR, to resolve Title VI complaints when appropriate. On February 1, 2013, the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice (Greenaction) signed a settlement agreement resolving all issues related to the Avenal Title VI Complaint (EPA File # 11R-09-R9). The complainants and recipient reached their agreement through an ADR process, with the assistance of a mediator provided by EPA. EPA is not a party to this agreement, so all questions related to the other specific terms in, or the implementation of the agreement should be directed to the APCD or Greenaction. Access the settlement agreement here.