News out of the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights: Meeting the Mandate vs. Rewriting It

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to amend its regulations implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EPA has proposed to amend its regulations with regard to compliance information, post-award compliance reviews, and complaint investigations. The EPA asserts that the proposed amendments will improve it’s ability to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance comply with their affirmative obligation under Title VI and other nondiscrimination statutes.

Late last month, the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) committed to holding listening sessions in five different cities for the purpose of public engagement and to provide more information about the proposed amendments. The five cities chosen were Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Durham, NC; Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC.

On Tuesday, I attended the Houston session at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs. The session began with attendees hearing how the amendments are designed to do the following:

  1. Reaffirm EPA’s discretion to initiate compliance reviews to ensure compliance with civil rights laws;
  2. Provide EPA with the ability to request and receive compliance information from recipients on a regular basis;
  3. Reaffirm EPA’s discretion to determine how to ensure the prompt, effective, and efficient resolution of its cases; and,
  4. Reaffirm EPA’s enforcement discretion to tailor its approach to complaints to match their complexity, scope and nature.

However, when the pubic comment portion of the session began, almost every single commenter encouraged the EPA OCR to work to fulfill its current mandate rather than rewriting it. I sincerely encourage anyone interested in this issue to read these two articles here and here, as well as the EPA OCR’s post about the proposed amendments. Environmental Justice is absolutely a civil rights issue and the EPA OCR is critical in the effort to end environment injustices throughout the US. Please make your voice heard and email your comments about the proposed amendments to or send them to:

US Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Civil Rights (1201A)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460