Washington, DC – The newly confirmed head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Brenda Mallory, kicked off Earth Week by focusing on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to addressing the needs and priorities of communities that have been disproportionately burdened by pollution and environmental injustice– all while advancing the Administration’s mission to tackle the climate crisis and create good-paying, union jobs.

Chair Mallory today met with the House Environmental Justice Caucus co-chairs—Representatives Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Donald McEachin (VA-04), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Nanette Barragan (CA-44)—to discuss opportunities to advance environmental justice, including through the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 initiative and the creation of a Climate and Economic Justice Screening tool. 

Mallory also talked with Richard Moore, Peggy Shepard, Catherine Flowers, and Carletta Tilousi, long-standing environmental justice leaders who are serving as the co-chairs and vice chairs of the recently-established White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). Chair Mallory thanked the leaders for their service on the WHEJAC and heard from them on their initial goals and work. The next WHEJAC meeting will be held on April 28.

“For too long in this country, communities of color and low-income communities have not been given a voice in decisions that affect their health and well-being, contributing to dangerous levels of pollution being concentrated in places where many Americans live, work, and play,” said Chair Mallory. “President Biden and Vice President Harris have made it clear from the first day of this administration that environmental justice will be a top priority, and I’m excited to get to work on fulfilling their commitments.”

Background

CEQ was created in 1969 by the NEPA for the purpose of coordinating efforts to improve, preserve, and protect America’s public health and environment. Chair Mallory has been sworn in as the 12th Chair of the White House CEQ. She is the first African American to serve as CEQ Chair, a role that involves serving as the principal environmental policy advisor to the president.

Chair Mallory will work to coordinate and advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s environmental policy agenda, including its efforts to pursue environmental justice. The Administration has already made significant strides in advancing environmental justice across its agencies. To learn more, read this letter from National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and CEQ’s Senior Director for Environmental Justice, Dr. Cecilia Martinez.

Some of the Administration’s accomplishments include:

  1. Incorporated Environmental Justice into the American Jobs Plan. The American Jobs Plan targets 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities. It creates good-paying jobs and makes strategic improvements to transit, buildings, water, schools and power infrastructure. The Plan will promote American manufacturing and research & development while simultaneously creating opportunities in historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.
  2. Held the first historic meeting of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council on March 30. The WHEJAC was established by President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The Advisory Council will provide advice and recommendations to the CEQ Chair and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council on how to address current and historic environmental injustices.
  3. Held the first meeting of the Environmental Justice Interagency Council (IAC) on April 6. The IAC is responsible for bolstering federal government efforts to combat environmental injustice, including through the submitting “recommendations for further updating Executive Order 12898,” publishing an annual public performance score-card on the Order’s implementation, and creating a data-driven Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool in close consultation with the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
  4. Released President Biden’s discretionary budget request: The budget request included more than $1.4 billion in environmental justice provisions, including $936 million toward a new Accelerating Environmental and Economic Justice initiative that would help create good-paying jobs, clean up pollution, implement Justice40 and advance racial equity, and secure environmental justice for communities, including rural and tribal communities. The budget request also included $100 million for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be used for a new community air quality monitoring and notification program, and $30 million is included to protect communities from pollution through law enforcement. In addition, the budget request included $44 million for the Department of Justice in order to address environmental injustice in disadvantaged communities and to improve infrastructure sustainability in prison facilities.
  5. U.S. EPA Administrator Regan directed all EPA offices to take the following steps to better serve historically marginalized communities:
  • Strengthen enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes and civil rights laws in communities overburdened by pollution.
  • Take immediate steps to incorporate environmental justice considerations into their work, including assessing impacts to pollution-burdened, underserved, and Tribal communities in regulatory development processes and to consider regulatory options to maximize benefits to these communities.
  • Take immediate steps to improve engagement with pollution-burdened and underserved communities affected by agency rulemakings, permitting and enforcement decisions, and policies.
  • Consistent with the Administration’s Justice 40 initiative, consider and prioritize direct and indirect benefits to underserved communities in the development of requests for grant applications and in making grant award decisions, to the extent allowed by law.

Administrator Regan also announced $300 million in Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans for upgrades to water infrastructure in Washington, D.C., Louisville, Ky., and the Florida Keys.

  1. The Department of Energy (DOE) has made two recent announcements which advance environmental justice. Examples include:
    1. Hosting a consultation session on with Tribal leaders. This event supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s memorandum to conduct regular, meaningful and robust consultation with federally recognized Tribal Nations.
    1. Announcing up to $35 million for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program. This program will focused on developing technologies to reduce methane emissions in the oil, gas, and coal industries.
  2. The Department of the Interior (DOI) has made a number of recent announcements to pursue environmental justice in tribal communities. Examples include:
    1. Secretary Haaland issued Secretarial Orders SO 3399 and SO 3398, reaffirming the priorities of equitable climate action at DOI.
    1. Under the leadership of Secretary Haaland and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, the Biden-Harris Administration will reconvene the White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA). Their first meeting will be held on April 23.
    1. DOI made a historic investment in public lands that will create nearly 19,000 jobs and contribute $2 billion to GDP.
    1. Secretary Haaland created a new Missing & Murdered Unit to pursue justice for Missing or Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  3. The Department of Transportation (DOT) will increase public access to transportation in communities that need it most:
    1. DOT published a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to apply for $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2021 discretionary grant funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grants. Projects that mitigate climate change, create good-paying jobs, and improve racial equity will be prioritized.
    1. DOT’s Maritime Administration has announced $230 million in discretionary grant funding for port and intermodal infrastructure-related projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP). Review of grants will also center environmental justice and racial equity.
    1. The Department also announced that a total of $30.5 billion in Federal funding is now available to support the nation’s public transportation systems. Funding is provided through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

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