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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Aug 5, 2021.
Environmental Justice Act of 2021
This bill requires agencies to address and mitigate the disproportionate impact of environmental and human health hazards on communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities resulting from agencies' programs and policies. The bill also requires agencies to address cumulative impacts of pollution in permitting decisions and expands the types of legal actions available to individuals regarding charges of federal discriminatory practices.
Specifically, the bill provides statutory authority for a variety of existing programs, executive orders, federal guidance, and committees concerning environmental justice, including
Executive Order 12898; a guidance issued in 1997 by the Council on Environmental Quality titled Environmental Justice Guidance Under the National Environmental Policy Act; a guidance issued in 2016 by the Environmental Protection Agency titled EPA Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes: Guidance for Discussing Tribal Treaty Rights; the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program; and the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program. In addition, the bill requires agencies renewing or issuing specified permits under the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act to consider the cumulative impacts of pollution.
The bill also allows individuals to bring actions under the Civil Rights Act against entities that receive federal assistance and engage in discriminatory practices that have a disparate impact. Currently, individuals must request that federal agencies bring such actions on their behalf.