Environmental Justice Services
Environmental Justice (EJ) considerations have led to a rapidly evolving regulatory climate at the federal and state levels. The Biden Administration’s whole-of-government approach to EJ has led to increased scrutiny on projects and facilities in overburdened areas. Growing state activity and stakeholder interest have also sharpened the focus on equity concerns. As a result, EJ now represents both financial and non-financial risks for companies that may impact the following:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and 20+ states have introduced requirements related to projects and facilities in EJ areas. Projects subject to National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) must also address EJ. The patchwork of requirements and increased public interest, coupled with an increasing number of government-released tools, has led to challenges in navigating this rapidly changing regulatory landscape. TRC provides comprehensive EJ services, outlined below, to evaluate and understand permitting and operational risks, assess potential sites and routes and support regulatory compliance from project conception through implementation.
- EJ Justice & Socioeconomic Analyses: Resource reports and exhibits for federal, state and local permitting and comprehensive portfolio risk analysis
- Review of Potential Sites/Routes: Assessment of potential EJ concerns, leveraging powerful GIS technology and a vast library of socioeconomic and environmental data
- Custom Interactive Mapping: Visualization of EJ metrics and designations, including demographics, environmental burdens, Disadvantaged Communities and other key factors
- Community Benefits Plans: Comprehensive analyses of community engagement, workforce development, diversity, equity, inclusion & accessibility (DEIA) for projects with Justice40 requirements
- Economic Impact Modeling: Detailed insight into the benefits a project or facility brings to the local and/or state economy
Suite of Tools and Applications
TRC’s suite of EJ tools leverages GIS data to efficiently screen multiple sites and linear routes. Although federal and state agencies also offer EJ screen software tools, our proprietary screening and scoring methodologies identify locations with higher likelihoods of EJ-related public concerns. The ability to bridge data gaps provides clients with proactive steps to address issues and minimize delays and costly mitigation. Our initial screening identifies minority and/or low-income populations, communities with limited English proficiency, tribal lands, areas with high environmental burdens and areas with potential “red flags” for the US EPA. TRC’s subject matter experts provide in-depth analysis of these issues, focusing on pragmatic, data-driven solutions and actionable recommendations. These detailed analyses include sensitive receptor identification and review of state and federal agency EJ mapping.
Permitting, Siting and Routing
The current EJ climate presents development projects with uncertainty and the potential for delay. Without thoughtful routing and siting with attention to community conditions, projects leave themselves open to adverse comments, as well as schedule and budget risks. TRC’s AnalyzEJ and related analysis tools support our clients’ routing and site selection needs throughout the United States. Our proprietary screening and scoring methodologies identify locations with higher likelihoods of EJ-related public and regulatory concerns. Incorporating EJ considerations during project planning allows for route or site adjustments and the crafting of effective outreach and mitigation, if necessary. Our EJ Briefs use a variety of demographic data, custom thresholds, EJ and Disadvantaged Community tools and other metrics to understand the local landscape. As projects evolve, TRC’s subject matter experts provide more in-depth analysis (EJ Reports), which may include reviews of existing EJ activism and the potential for community partnering and corporate philanthropy, discussion of risks and mitigation options and a review of emerging EJ metrics.
TRC recognizes that each project demands site-specific solutions, such as avoidance of EJ areas, minimization of impacts, proactive outreach to provide early and accurate project information, community partnering and engagement to identify mutually acceptable accommodations.
Operational Risk Management
Existing facilities also benefit from considering the socioeconomic environment in which they operate. Under the Biden Administration, the U.S. EPA has moved to a proactive approach of initiating compliance reviews and audits in overburdened communities. EJ-related considerations can impact permit renewals and generate public relation challenges.
Our comprehensive portfolio reviews assess potential EJ areas of concern in the vicinity of discrete and linear assets. These reviews can include hosted GIS-based web mapping and related support, including updated data sources, EJ and map training and ongoing technical support. TRC’s proactive approach allows for more effective advance outreach and the crafting of mitigation or avoidance strategies, if necessary, to minimize EJ-related risks to projects and permits.
State and Municipal Support
TRC’s AnalyzEJ suite of tools provides the opportunity to support state and local EJ initiatives, including custom EJ mapping. Our subject matter experts can craft comprehensive mapping that incorporates priorities tailored to the users’ needs, providing guidance on available data and best practices. Analyses may also incorporate climate resilience considerations, in concert with our Risk and Resilience Team.
Community Benefits Plans
Billions of dollars of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are driving forces in today’s economy focused on modernizing our national energy markets and supporting the development of new and exciting technologies. An application outlining a proposed project must distinguish itself amongst the many bids seeking federal grants authorized by the IRA or IIJA.
A critical component for funding requests that fall under Justice40 covered programs is the Community Benefits Plan (CBP). The CBP is designed to be a blueprint for how the project will provide communities, workers and other stakeholders with opportunities for meaningful engagement. It will also ensure that at least 40% of the project benefits accrue to residents, businesses and organizations of Disadvantaged Communities within the host community and region. The CBP typically accounts for 20-25% of application scoring and is vital to the success of the proposal.
TRC’s diverse subject matter experts in Community and Stakeholder Engagement, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA), Workforce Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Justice40, Energy Equity and Environmental and Climate Science collaborate to develop and implement robust CBPs for our clients.