DEQ issues environmental justice study report

Hopefully, If you’re a member, you have seen the environmental alerts VAA issues periodically. These alerts highlight significant environmental events ongoing at the state and federal levels. Recently, our efforts to keep you informed have centered on Environmental Justice. In case the term Environmental Justice is new to you, the United States Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as follows: “Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”

On Friday, October 16, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released the long-awaited Environmental Justice report along with a four-page Action Plan for implementing the report’s recommendations. The purpose of this report, as commissioned by DEQ and completed by SKEO and Metropolitan, is to provide independent recommendations to DEQ on how to incorporate environmental justice goals into DEQ programs. Some of the elements of particular note for members include enhanced public participation requirements for permitting actions, requirements to evaluate environmental justice benefits and impacts as part of the permitting process, requiring municipalities to consider environmental justice in their comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances, just to name a few.

Based on the report and DEQ’s implementation plan, we can expect additional legislative proposals in the 2021 General Assembly session, as well as regulatory changes and new guidance. With Troutman Pepper’s assistance (VAA’s consulting partner), we will continue to keep you updated on these and other related environmental issues.