[co-authors: Sam Throm and Charles Smith]
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft of its 2022-2026 strategic plan, including a new foundational principle and several goals not seen in previous plans. Administrator Michael Regan has stated that the plan renews the EPA’s commitment to its founding principles – follow the science, follow the law, and be transparent – while adding a fourth foundational principle to advance justice and equity. The plan sets out six strategic goals and four cross-agency strategies. Administrator Regan’s commitment to the four principles is prominent in the first two goals in the draft 2022-2026 plan: tackling the Climate Crisis and taking decisive action to advance environmental justice and equity.
The first goal, tackling the Climate Crisis, tasks the EPA with prioritizing reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all sectors and increasing the adaptive capacity of tribes, states, and other communities. The plan commits the agency to long-term performance goals of finalizing regulations to curb GHG emissions from light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles, electric generating units and the oil and gas industry. It also sets an agency priority goal for 2022-23 of phasing down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Methane emissions are already in the administration’s sights with the recent pledge to reduce them by 30 percent by 2030.
The second goal, taking decisive action to advance environmental justice and civil rights follows up on Executive Order commitments from the earliest days of the Biden-Harris administration and is consistent with other actions elsewhere in the administration. Language around tangible progress for historically disadvantaged environmental communities and fair environmental quality is common in the academic sphere, but the new strategic plan takes that language further into practice than seen before for a federal agency. This goal dovetails with broader strategies of the Biden-Harris administration, such as the recent establishment of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The President’s 2022 budget proposal also includes a call for a new Senate-confirmed assistant administrator for environmental justice at the EPA, and designates half of a proposed $1.8 million funding boost to the EPA for environmental justice work.
Other goals in the draft 2022-2026 plan include enforcement of existing regulation, cleaner air and water, responding to environmental emergencies, and ensuring chemical safety. Cross-agency strategies include scientific integrity, workforce equity, children’s health, and engagement in civic partnerships. The strategic plan is open for public comment through November 12, and the final plan will be issued in February 2022 together with the EPA’s fiscal 2023 budget proposal.