October 7, 2021 - by Bridget Marsh – On October 5, the LSTA hosted a webinar, “How the Emerging Environmental Justice Paradigm Will Shape Risk Profiles and Investment Opportunities”, presented by Crowell & Moring partners, Paul Freeman, Jennifer Grady, Jonathan Kibbe, Elliot Laws, and Kirsten Nathanson.  Environmental justice is more than a philosophy or political movement.  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, the implementation, and the enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.  It is an easy to grasp and hard to forget concept.

Many environmental decisions of the past were harmful to groups of people who had no way to defend themselves.  Today the Biden administration has made environmental justice front and center and is weaving the language of environmental justice into the whole of government approach both with the stick of enforcement actions and the carrot of procurement contracting and infrastructure spending.

The Office of Environmental Justice sits within the Environmental Protection Agency, and it coordinates the EPA’s efforts to integrate environmental justice into all policies, programs, and activities.  The EPA has been directed to create geospatial climate and environmental; justice screening tools, publish interactive maps annually, generally make real time data publicly available, and strengthen enforcement of environmental violations with disproportionate impact on underserved communities.  Environmental justice risk mapping is a mapping tool that tries to combine demographic information, environmental health information, information regarding language and education to determine where the communities are and what risks they are facing.  In addition to efforts at the federal level, states continue to develop and build on their existing environmental justice screening and mapping tools.  States are adopting laws that promote environmental justice in some way, with New Jersey leading the way and passing the most far reaching environmental justice legislation in the country.

The Biden administration’s approach is moving environmental justice into the real world with concrete impact.   As the new paradigm moves forward, the hope is that it will gain traction and shareholder activism and other forces will take hold ensuring it becomes second nature for decision makers to take these environmental justice issues into account.  Click here for the slides and here for the replay.

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