Home McEachin leads effort to encourage EPA to prioritize environmental justice

McEachin leads effort to encourage EPA to prioritize environmental justice

Rebecca Barnabi
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with issuing regulations for facilities that pose a harm to the environment.

The EPA also mandates the development and submission of a response plan in case of a worst-case discharge of hazardous substances into public waterways.

Congressman A. Donald McEachin of Virginia and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan calling on a final rule to prioritize environmental justice and climate resiliency while setting protective standards.

“To date, there is no official record or registration of existing aboveground tanks that should be subject to this rule,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, according to a press release. “In addition, no comprehensive official record exists of spills resulting from breached tanks nor of the effects on nearby communities or waterways. A case study on aboveground tanks in the Commonwealth of Virginia identified nearly 5,000 tank-related spills that occurred between 2000 and 2020, which equates to an average of 230 tank-related spills each year in Virginia alone. These numbers are alarming, and we are encouraged that this rule will help to address this longstanding gap.”

The letter also encourages the EPA to include and prioritize several environmental justice and climate resiliency provisions to protect the general public and vulnerable communities. The lawmakers requested that the EPA consider cumulative impacts of co-located or proximate facilities and whether they pose substantial harm to environmental justice communities; ensure that facilities follow updated climate risk assessment guidance, including consideration of “double disasters;” and make information on the hazards posed by facilities available and accessible to the public.

The lawmakers want the EPA to adopt a proactive regulatory approach to protect public health and the environment.

The letter states that “the rule should move beyond worst case discharge planning — a reactive approach to disasters. EPA can and, under the Clean Water Act, must also adopt specific spill-prevention requirements for the most dangerous facilities under this rule including considerations and mandates for inherently safer technologies. Finally, preventing these discharges in the first place is the only sure-fire way to protect public health and the environment. That is why EPA should issue complimentary hazardous substances discharge prevention regulations, which it has had the broad authority to do since Congress issued the Clean Water Act in 1972.”

The letter is co-signed by 18 other members of Congress.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.