Several NRC Staff recommendations emphasize increased communication with stakeholders, including creating an NRC Federal Advisory Committee on Environmental Justice issues. However, it is unclear how this committee or other attempts to increase communications would alter the existing Staff outreach in public meetings and other consultations, or how it might impact NRC environmental reviews going forward.
While the Staff suggested reconsidering the provision of financial assistance for intervenors in NRC adjudicatory proceedings, Congress has long barred the use of appropriated monies to pay such expenses. As such, a legislative change would be required before the NRC could provide financial assistance.
Additionally, the Staff recommends that the NRC undertake a separate assessment of the Agreement State application process to identify whether there are potential improvements or modifications that could prove beneficial to environmental justice communities and Tribal nations.

On March 29, 2022, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Staff issued a SECY Paper, SECY-22-0025, “Systematic Review of How Agency Programs, Policies, and Activities Address Environmental Justice,” including an evaluation of whether the NRC should incorporate environmental justice beyond implementation through the National Environmental Policy Act, as directed by the Commission on April 23, 2021. In this SECY Paper, the Staff concluded that the NRC’s programs, polices, and activities that address environmental justice through NEPA, including the NRC’s 1995 “Environmental Justice Strategy” and its 2004 “Policy Statement on the Treatment of Environmental Justice Matters in NRC Regulatory and Licensing Matters,” (or “Environmental Justice Policy Statement”) are consistent with applicable law, and generally consistent with the spirit of Executive Orders that address environmental justice.

Nonetheless, the Staff “identified areas where the consideration of [environmental justice] could be updated, enhanced, or modernized,” and provided several policy recommendations to “enhance and update” how the NRC addresses environmental justice as well as several commitments without changes to policy. In accordance with these findings, the NRC Staff is now seeking Commission approval of six separate policy recommendations described below.


  • Revise the Environmental Justice Policy Statement.

While the Staff considers the current Environmental Justice Policy Statement to be legally adequate, it recommended changes such as using plain language; clarifying how environmental justice is addressed at the NRC; providing a full and clear picture of legal authorities pertinent to environmental justice matters; and clarifying that the Environmental Justice Policy Statement does not preclude consideration of Environmental Justice in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act programs and activities.

  • Revise the NRC’s 1995 Environmental Justice Strategy.

The Staff recommended that the 1995 Environmental Justice Strategy be updated to account for all the changes made in the NRC’s programs, policies, and activities since 1995. The Staff recommended reinstating the Environmental Justice Coordinator and creating an oversight committee of senior agency officials consistent with the “Continued Senior Management Involvement” principle outlined in the 1995 Environmental Justice Strategy.

  • Enhance environmental justice-related outreach activities.

The Staff recommended that the agency take a more comprehensive approach to outreach to enhance the way it communicates and engages with environmental justice communities and Tribal nations. This approach might include creating positions to support environmental justice-related outreach, enhancing guidance and training for Staff related to engagement on environmental justice matters, and improving accessibility to related guidance and procedures.

  • Implement formal mechanisms to enhance how environmental justice is addressed at the NRC.

The Staff recommended formal mechanisms specifically aimed at engaging with environmental justice communities, including: 1) the creation of a Federal Advisory Committee for environmental justice matters and 2) holding periodic Commission meetings with environmental justice communities and Tribal nations on cross-cutting environmental justice issues.

  • Assess potential changes to current prohibition on intervenor funding.

According to the Staff, many commentators stated that the 10 C.F.R. Part 2 intervention requirements are applied too stringently, and the timing of when intervenors must file contentions is too early. Because of the complexity and expense, it was posited that the NRC analyze legislative changes to provide resources for legal and technical assistance to support more participation in these proceedings, including potential financial support.

  • Assess whether enhancements can be made to how environmental justice is addressed in the Agreement State application process and related activities.

Because no NEPA review is required, there is currently no environmental justice consideration during the Agreement State application process. The Staff recommended that the NRC undertake a separate assessment of this process to identify whether there are potential improvements or modifications that could prove beneficial to environmental justice communities and Tribal nations.

In addition to the recommendations outlined above, the Staff identified an additional six commitments which will not affect Commission policy. Following the Commission’s decision on these proposed recommendations, the Staff will assess the need for environmental justice resources, and within 120 days of Commission direction on these recommendations, the Staff will develop an implementation plan with schedule and resource estimates to support implementation.

Pillsbury’s top-rated Nuclear Team will continue to monitor the NRC’s implementation of these recommendations as they develop.

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