New EPA Enforcement and Compliance Assistant Administrator Expected to Advance Environmental Justice Enforcement Efforts

Kelley Drye Client Advisory

On July 20, 2023, the U.S. Senate confirmed the long-awaited appointment of David Uhlmann as the new Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) Enforcement and Compliance Division.[1] Mr. Uhlmann brings to EPA valuable experience. He served seventeen years at the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under both Republican and Democratic administrations, including serving as DOJ’s Chief of the Environmental Crimes Section for seven years.[2] Mr. Uhlmann has a reputation as one of the Nation’s top prosecutors of criminal polluters.”[3] Considering his new role at EPA, we can expect more enforcement from the already active agency.

Under the Biden Administration, EPA has been active in the environmental enforcement area and has made a conscious effort to advance environmental justice, focusing federal enforcement resources on communities facing substantial burdens from non-compliance.[4] In its Strategic Plan for 2022 through 2026, EPA set a goal to conduct 55% of its inspections at facilities in areas with environmental justice concerns by 2026.[5] EPA has already met that goal, with 56% of EPA’s on-site inspections occurring at facilities in such areas.[6] This number is up from a baseline of 27%.[7] With the Biden Administration’s support,[8] and now with Mr. Uhlmann heading the Enforcement and Compliance Division, we expect to see the agency aggressively pursue the environmental justice goals set forth in its strategic plan.[9]

[4] Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” EPA, Environmental Justice, available at https://​www​.epa​.gov/​e​n​v​i​r​o​n​m​e​n​t​a​l​j​u​stice
[7] Id. EPA’s baseline is derived from data gathered between 2017 and 2019.
[8] For more information on some of the actions the Biden Administration has taken to assist EPA in advancing environmental justice, see US-Justice-Dept-Unveils-New-Efforts-to-Tackle-Environmental-Justice-Concerns_Real-Estate-Finance-Journal_Fall-2022.pdf