Environmental Justice Assessment
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The Environmental Justice Review Team has completed its systematic assessment of how the NRC approaches environmental justice in its programs, policies and activities, and has now submitted its work to the Commission. The package includes a staff paper and 13 enclosures explaining our findings in detail. Links to the publicly available documents are at the bottom of this page.
The paper and enclosures summarize the Team's work since the Commission's direction last April. The package reflects our extensive outreach effort to stakeholders, including environmental justice communities and Tribal nations, NRC staff, other federal agencies, industry groups, nuclear safety organizations and the public at large. Over the course of the assessment, the Team held several public meetings and received approximately 2,500 written comments.
Bottom line: The Team concluded that the NRC's approach to environmental justice in its programs, policies and activities has, in many ways, served the agency well, and there are opportunities for programmatic and policy enhancements moving forward.
While the Team has completed its work, this was only the first step in the NRC's assessment of its approach to environmental justice. The Commissioners will now consider our recommendations and may direct the staff to take further action.
Full details of the Team's findings, recommendations, and commitments can be found in the documents linked below. A brief summary follows.
The Team recommends the Commission approve the following actions:
- Revise the NRC's 2004 Environmental Justice Policy Statement. The Team believes the existing NRC policy statement could benefit from additional clarity, consistency and transparency. Stakeholders should be engaged in the revision process.
- Revise the NRC's 1995 Environmental Justice Strategy. The strategy is comprehensive, but it does not account for all the changes in NRC programs, policies, and activities since 1995. This effort should also include stakeholder engagement and could be done simultaneously with the Policy Statement revision.
- Enhance environmental justice-related outreach activities. The NRC should take a more comprehensive approach to public outreach, especially to environmental justice communities and Tribal nations. The Team recommends establishing permanent staff positions dedicated to EJ-related outreach, enhancing guidance for NRC staff on environmental justice engagement, and improving accessibility to environmental justice guidance and procedures.
- Implement formal mechanisms to enhance how environmental justice is addressed at the NRC. The Team proposes two dedicated mechanisms specifically aimed at benefiting future environmental justice efforts.
- Creation of an outside Federal Advisory Committee for Environmental Justice; and
- Holding periodic Commission meetings with environmental justice communities and Tribal nations on cross-cutting environmental justice issues.
The recommendation to establish a Federal Advisory Committee generated a differing staff view that hiring one or more outside environmental justice experts to be on the NRC staff might be a more timely and efficient way to benefit from external views on environmental justice matters. However, the Team decided this approach would not address the concerns of independence and external views critical to our environmental justice activities.
- Assess potential changes to current prohibition on intervenor funding. Congress has barred the use of appropriated funds to pay the expenses of, or otherwise compensate, parties seeking to intervene in NRC regulatory or adjudicatory processes. Many commenters said lack of funding is a barrier to public participation, especially for environmental justice communities. The Team recommends the Commission direct a separate assessment of whether the agency should seek changes to the current prohibition on intervenor funding.
- Assess whether enhancements can be made to how environmental justice is addressed in the Agreement State application process and related activities. Entrance into an Agreement with a State under the Atomic Energy Act is categorically excluded from NRC's environmental review provisions. As a result, there is no environmental justice review when the NRC reaches an agreement with a state to discontinue regulatory authority over radioactive materials. The Team recommends the Commission direct a separate assessment of the Agreement State application process and related activities to identify any potential improvements or modifications that could benefit environmental justice communities and Tribal nations.
The Team identified six commitments the staff can undertake without Commission approval to enhance the NRC's approach to environmental justice:
- Enhance how NRC staff communicates and engages with environmental justice communities and Tribal nations on issues associated with dose and radiation protection and follows related interagency research.
- Enhance communication related to preparedness, response and recovery activities.
- Enhance communications and information through existing processes related to impacts on environmental justice communities from cessation of operations at nuclear facilities.
- Assess enhancing the consideration of environmental justice in regulatory cost-benefit analysis guidance.
- Consider lessons learned and knowledge gained through this review in future updates to environmental review guidance.
- Improve communications with environmental justice communities and Tribal nations about the NRC's hearing process.
The staff is prepared to develop an implementation plan, including schedule and resource estimates, within 120 days of receiving the Commission's decision on the Team's recommendations.
Here are the documents contained in the Environmental Justice Review Team's package sent to the Commission on March 29, 2022.
- SECY-22-0025: Systematic Review of How Agency Programs, Policies and Activities Address Environmental Justice
- Enclosure 1: Environmental Justice Background and Chronology
- Enclosure 2: Recommendation to Revise the Environmental Justice Policy Statement
- Enclosure 3: Recommendation to Revise the 1995 Environmental Justice Strategy
- Enclosure 4: Recommendation to Enhance EJ-Related Outreach Activities
- Enclosure 5: Recommendation to Implement Formal Mechanisms
- Enclosure 6: Recommendation and Commitments Related to Adjudicatory and Rulemaking Activities
- Enclosure 7: Recommendation to Assess the Agreement State Application Process and Related Activities
- Enclosure 8: Commitments to Enhance How the Agency Addresses Environmental Justice
- Enclosure 9: Legal Enclosure for the Environmental Justice Review (Non-public)
- Enclosure 10: Overview of Benchmarking Effort for the Environmental Justice Review
- Enclosure 11: Outreach Activities for the Environmental Justice Review
- Enclosure 12: Comment Summary Report
- Enclosure 13: Environmental Justice Review Recommendations and Commitments Resource Estimates (Non-public)
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, April 11, 2022