EPA and Colorado announce enforcement partnership to advance environmental justice goals




EPA and CDPHE to meet with communities to get input and develop implementation plan 

DENVER (March 9, 2022) —The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) have signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate enforcement actions that advance the environmental justice goals of both agencies. Colorado is the second state in the nation, following California, to develop a memorandum of understanding with EPA on this topic. The memorandum further enhances the agencies’ shared efforts to identify the most serious threats to public health and the environment in communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution.

Today’s announcement initiates a partnership between the two agencies and expands collaborative activities related to enforcement, inspections, compliance assistance, communication, community engagement, and training to benefit public health and the environment in overburdened communities. EPA and CDPHE will focus on compliance across various environmental laws and regulations that secure clean air, water, soil, and drinking water and protect people from exposure to hazardous waste and toxic chemicals. These include urban and rural communities where people may be exposed to pollution from multiple sources. 

“We know the burdens of pollution are often heavier in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, which may result in significant impacts on health and quality of life,” said KC Becker, EPA regional administrator. “This agreement with Colorado focuses our compliance assurance, communication, community engagement and training efforts to address the disparities that exist in overburdened communities.” 

“Environmental justice and health equity are core to everything we do. Prioritizing enforcement of our environmental laws in areas with the greatest health disparities is a direct step toward eliminating systemic inequities that result in poorer health outcomes for too many Coloradans,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, CDPHE executive director. “We are going to work closely with communities to determine their priorities and concerns so we can more effectively use resources to eliminate threats to public health.” 

Members of the State of Colorado’s EJ Action Task Force and EJ Advisory Board also weighed in:

"The MOU created by CDPHE and the EPA Region 8 is an important step forward for disproportionately affected communities. As a lifelong Puebloan, taking steps to ensure our citizens have clean air, water, and safe places to live and work should be everyone's top priority. I am excited about the outreach portion of this MOU and the opportunity to have tough conversations in areas outside the Denver Metro area. House Bill 21-1266 is going to open up even more doors for disproportionately impacted communities and move us to a more equitable state. I am thrilled at the work that is happening out of CDPHE and now the EPA Region 8 office,” said Josette Jaramillo, co-chair, Environmental Justice Advisory Board.

"This new agreement is an important recognition that our federal and state agencies must partner with disproportionately impacted communities in an all-hands-on-deck approach to a pollution-free future for ALL Coloradans. For generations, our communities — Latino, low-income, and Black, Indigenous, and communities of color — have carried the burden of pollution, to this day, we continue to fight unjust barriers to eliminating the health and economic impacts of multiple sources of pollution in our neighborhoods and workspaces. I applaud our federal and state leaders for acknowledging and taking steps to reverse that harm,” said Beatriz Soto, member, Environmental Justice Action Task Force.

"This is a critical step towards environmental justice for those harmed by government permitted toxics. We must improve our enforcement and compliance. We should always put health and safety first. This should be step one for the EPA and CDPHE. Communities have long advocated for stronger accountability. Impacted communities see the stark difference between how the law is applied to our communities.  As a member of the Environmental Justice Action Taskforce, I am committed to the community and to work with you and government agencies on real measures of accountability and transparency,” said Hilda Nucete, member, Environmental Justice Action Task Force.

The memorandum contains several provisions, including:

  • Strategically prioritizing inspections at facilities located in communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution.
  • Enhancing enforcement coordination between CDPHE and EPA to reduce pollution burdens in disproportionately impacted communities.
  • Expanding transparency through public engagement about enforcement and compliance actions in impacted communities.

The memorandum is set to run five years. 

EPA and CDPHE will facilitate a series of community listening sessions and meetings and provide many channels for receiving community input on the scope of work and a concrete plan for implementation. 

CDPHE has made environmental justice a core priority, recognizing that the department has an obligation to address long-standing inequities throughout the state. In 2021, Governor Polis signed the Environmental Justice Act (HB21-1266) into law.  Later that year, Governor Polis and CDPHE executive director Jill Hunsaker Ryan appointed members to Colorado’s first Environmental Justice Advisory Board, and CDPHE launched the new Environmental Justice Action Task Force.

In 2021, CDPHE also created a new Environmental Justice Unit to reduce environmental health disparities for communities of color and low-income communities across Colorado. 

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and EPA Administrator Regan have made environmental justice a priority across EPA’s programs. Learn more about these efforts, including the EJ 2020 Action Agenda, at: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice

 

Media Contacts:

U.S. EPA: Richard Mylott, mylott.richard@epa.gov

CDPHE: Gabi Johnston, cdphe.communications@state.co.us