The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it would be creating an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) in an effort to tackle climate change and issues related to so-called environmental racism, in order “to protect the health of disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations on the frontlines of pollution.”
The office will be part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), according to Fox News. It will join the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity.
“By creating this new office and prioritizing environmental justice at HHS, Secretary [Xavier] Becerra is undertaking the type of bold institutional reform that is desperately needed to deliver clean air and clean water for all communities,” White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory said in a statement to Fox. “Today’s announcement is a key step toward confronting environmental injustice – in all of its heartbreaking forms – with the full force and commitment of the Federal government.”
Environmental justice will now be a priority for the administration, who aim to lead initiatives to improve the health of disadvantaged communities and populations who are at risk.
“The blunt truth is that many communities across our nation – particularly low-income communities and communities of color – continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land-use decisions, transportation, and trade corridors,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention. That’s why HHS is establishing the Office of Environmental Justice.”
According to the EPA, it will be through President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, titled Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, signed last January, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) is being established to advise the Chair of the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the newly established White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (IAC) to increase the Federal Government’s efforts to address environmental injustice. The WHEJAC’s efforts will include a broad range of strategic, scientific, technological, regulatory, community engagement, and economic issues related to environmental justice.
The EPA site continues, “this council will advise on how to increase the Federal Government’s efforts to address current and historic environmental injustice through strengthening environmental justice monitoring and enforcement. The duties of the WHEJAC are to provide advice and recommendations to the IAC and the Chair of CEQ on a whole-of-government approach to environmental justice, including, but not limited, to environmental justice in the following areas:
- Climate change mitigation, resilience, and disaster management
- Toxics, pesticides, and pollution reduction in overburdened communitiesEquitable conservation and public lands use
- Tribal and Indigenous issues
- Clean energy transition
- Sustainable infrastructure, including clean water, transportation, and the built environment
- NEPA, enforcement and civil rights
- Increasing the Federal Government’s efforts to address current and historic environmental injustice