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A Big Step Forward on Environmental Justice

Every American deserves to live in a community that fosters health and prosperity. Yet all too often, low-income and minority families live in the shadows of some of the worst pollution in the Nation, leading to higher rates of diseases like asthma, cancer, and heart disease, and threatening the economic potential of their communities. The Obama Administration is committed to addressing these disparities.

Now, Federal agencies are releasing their Environmental Justice Strategies for public comment. These strategies are tailored to agencies' individual missions, and serve as a road map that will help integrate environmental justice into the programs they run, the policies they make, and the activities they engage in. By identifying potential ways that their work may have disproportionally adverse health and environmental effects on low-income and minority populations, as well as proposing strategies to address the inequalities, Federal agencies are advancing this Administration's unwavering commitment to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to live in healthy and safe communities.

The release of the draft Environmental Justice Strategies is just the latest step in Administration-wide efforts to ensure all Americans are protected from environmental and health hazards. In 1994, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order directing federal agencies to participate in a government-wide effort to address environmental justice issues. The Obama Administration revitalized this effort by reconvening the Interagency Environmental Justice Working Group for the first time in more than a decade, engaging community members at a White House Forum on Environmental Justice, and most recently, bringing Federal agency leaders together to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice. It was through this MOU that agencies committed to developing Environmental Justice Strategies and releasing annual implementation reports. 

Over the next few weeks, agencies will have open comment periods on their draft strategies to give the public a chance to weigh in. Federal agencies will review all public comments and take them into account before finalizing the strategies early next year. We look forward to hearing from you as we expand the conversation on environmental justice in pursuit of healthy communities for all Americans.

You can read the strategies and share your ideas here:  http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/index.html

Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality