On January 27, President Biden signed a series of executive orders focused on mitigating climate change, building infrastructure, and promoting environmental justice.
As part of the orders, the president directed federal agencies to “develop programs, policies, and activities to address disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.”
To enforce these guidelines, a new White House Interagency Council on Environmental Justice and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council have been formed to prioritize environmental justice and ensure a “whole-of-government approach” to combating environmental justice. against environmental injustices and promote better monitoring and enforcement in these areas. New or strengthened offices at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services have been created to assist in these efforts.
The ordinances also established the Justice40 Initiative, through which government institutions aim to provide 40% of the benefits of federal investments to disadvantaged communities. President Biden also announced the development of a climate and environmental justice screening tool that will be used to identify disadvantaged communities and “inform equitable decision-making across the federal government.”
At the heart of these policies is the desire to ease the burden on habitation facilities such as landfills, factories, power plants, waste incineration and sewage treatment plants from populated “gated communities” of minorities.
“It’s tough,” President Biden said, referring to the disproportionate number of these facilities being built and operated in areas of the country where white browns, blacks, Native Americans and poor people reside. “That’s why we will work to ensure they receive 40% of the benefits of key federal investments in clean energy, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
Operators are all too familiar with the difficulties of siting, authorizing and managing waste management facilities. And while regulation and bureaucracy already pose significant challenges for those overseeing these sites, it’s safe to say the industry will be keeping a close eye on how these new provisions could further exacerbate compliance issues. NIMBY (not in my back yard) is a feeling waste industry players are used to dealing with in the communities in which they operate. What will be the fallout if a government-mandated intervention results in a new acronym: NITBY (not in their backyard)?
Of course, it will take time before the details and ramifications of President Biden’s orders are understood; however, it would seem that an obvious result will be that the responsibility to be a good neighbor will be imposed on operators for the next four years and more, even more than it already is.
Can industry overcome additional compliance and regulatory hurdles through more thoughtful design, greater community engagement, innovation and technology adoption, and more proactive emissions testing?
Regardless of how these ordinances are interpreted and enforced, it’s a safe bet that the companies that are able to present their plans for fair and safe (and proven) waste management operations are the ones who will be the beneficiaries. new government policy.