Environmental Justice

What is environmental justice?

The U.S. EPA defines environmental justice as “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.”

The EPA goes on to explain that the goals of environmental justice, or EJ, will be achieved when everyone enjoys:

  • The same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards.
  • Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

How does pollution prevention support EJ?

Pollution prevention, or P2, refers to strategies, practices and processes aimed at reducing or eliminating the generation of pollutants and waste at the source, rather than trying to manage them after they have been generated by changing the process, materials or technology used. P2 practices can also often help industries ease regulatory compliance needs, leading to savings of both time and resources.

By minimizing the release of pollutants, P2 directly reduces the environmental and health burdens on communities, especially those historically impacted by industrial activities. Cleaner air, water and soil contribute to healthier living conditions and lower disease rates.

PPI was recently awarded a new P2 EJ Grant from the EPA that will allow us to expand our services significantly to EJ areas, offering:

  • Technical assistance: both on-site and off-site P2 assistance and assessments to help industries and institutions identify opportunities for source reduction, including chemical substitutions.
  • Education and training: training sessions, public technical assistance seminars and developing case studies to disseminate knowledge and best practices in P2.

If your company is interested in any of these services, please contact us at 800-578-8898 or ksu-ppi@k-state.edu.  

EPA’s National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative

Beginning with the Federal Fiscal Year 2024, the EPA has recently published its enforcement and compliance initiatives that will run through Federal Fiscal Year 2027. These initiatives can result in increased environmental inspections in your area. If you need help with compliance, now is the time to schedule an on-site visit with your state SBEAP. Download the flyer below for more information.

Environmental justice flier

Our SBEAP program provides environmental compliance assistance to small businesses, many of which are in communities with EJ concerns and may be owned by and employ members of those communities. It is essential that small businesses understand and comply with environmental regulations and reduce pollution, especially in overburdened communities. Small businesses that have questions or need free, confidential technical assistance can contact us at 800-578-8898 to be connected to services.

How can I know if my business or entity is in an EJ area?

EJScreen is a mapping tool used by the EPA to recognize areas that are environmentally overburdened and disproportionately impacted. The tool uses 13 EJ indexes that categorize Census Block Groups in percentiles based on state and national comparisons using a combination of individual environmental indicators and demographic data. Any locality above the 80th percentile in at least one index is considered an area of EJ concern. This brief video tutorial can help you navigate EJScreen.

As part of the EPA’s commitment to strengthen enforcement and advance the protection of communities overburdened by pollution, there may be an increase in federal oversight if an EJ area is above the 90th percentile in more than one EJ index. The more indexes over the 90th percentile an area has, the more likely there will be increased environmental inspections.