Today, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory delivered virtual remarks at a public meeting of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). Chair Mallory’s remarks come as the Biden-Harris Administration marks a year since President Biden signed an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, laying the foundation for the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever undertaken by an Administration and putting environmental justice and climate action at the center of the federal government’s work. You can read more on how the Biden-Harris Administration has worked this past year to advance environmental justice, here.

Chair Mallory’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

Good afternoon.

Thank you for inviting me to join you today on your first meeting in 2022

And welcome to everyone who is joining this public meeting of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

I want to begin by acknowledging the dedication and time that the WHEJAC members put into their service over the past year.

Late nights, weekends, countless working group meetings – on top of your day jobs – to develop recommendations for pursuing and delivering the environmental justice that every community deserves.

Thank you, all.

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of when President Biden signed Executive Order 14008. That Executive Order — which created this very body — set us out on the most ambitious climate and environmental justice agenda ever pursued.

Today, I want to talk about the big strides forward we have taken over the past year.

But – more importantly – I want to speak candidly about the work ahead to deliver the meaningful change that communities expect and deserve.

Let me begin, though, by recognizing someone who deserves enormous credit for the progress we have made over the past year: Dr. Cecilia Martinez, who served as the Federal government’s first-ever Senior Director for Environmental Justice here at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

From President Biden’s campaign, through the Transition, to this critical first year of the Administration, Dr. Martinez gave all she had to the task of shaping and launching the President’s environmental justice agenda.

Every one of us – and millions of people across the country – has benefitted from Cecilia’s energy, wisdom, experience, kindness, and heart.

I am deeply grateful for her service and friendship. I am also fiercely determined to build on the foundation she helped us lay over the past year.

I am not alone in my determination.

We have some extraordinary champions for environmental justice and equity across this Administration, from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and EPA Administrator Michael Regan, to the talented young leaders in our Administration who will be joining this meeting over the next two days.

Every one of us is sharply focused on keeping the President’s promises on environmental justice.

And make no mistake: we will continue to build the strength of our environmental justice team across the federal government, including here at CEQ – because we have a lot of work to do.

It is hard to believe that a little over a year ago, CEQ did not have a single employee who focused on environmental justice. Today, we have a team of six. And we will be adding to it very soon.

What else has changed over the past year?

Well, one year ago, the President asked us to ensure that all communities have a voice in the decisions that affect them – including here at the White House.

So, in 2021, we formed this very body, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, composed of some of the nation’s foremost environmental justice experts and leaders.

One year ago, the President asked us to embed environmental justice into the DNA of how Federal agencies do their work.

So, in 2021, we established the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council — which I am proud to lead — that helps coordinate our all-of-government approach to confronting environmental injustice.

And agency after agency – from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Agriculture to the General Services Administration — has launched or strengthened environmental equity and justice offices, task forces, or strategies.

One year ago, the President asked us to deliver the benefits of Federal climate, environment, and clean energy investments to the communities that need them most.

So, in 2021, we launched the Justice40 initiative, where we are transforming hundreds of programs across the government – including programs in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – to guide 40% of their overall benefits to communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.

This task is like steering a giant cargo ship in a new direction, but make no mistake: through the bureaucratic machinery of guidance documents and program reviews, we are turning that ship on a new course.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – one year ago, the President directed us to reduce the pollution burdens and climate change threats that communities are facing.

So, in 2021, we set about delivering the clean air, clean water, and safe housing and communities that everyone deserves.

The President himself helped deliver on this promise by getting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law done, and securing historic investments to clean up Superfund sites and brownfields, replace lead pipes, deal with abandoned mines and oil wells, and lots more.

And as an Administration more broadly, we made big strides in the past year to reduce the burdens and confront the injustices that many communities are facing. To name a few, we are:

Cracking down on PFAS and other toxic chemicals;

  • Banning chlorpyrifos;
  • Cutting vehicle pollution;
  • Reforming FEMA’s disaster programs;
  • Lowering energy burdens;
  • Helping Tribal nations bolster climate resilience;
  • Electrifying ports;
  • Confronting housing segregation and unequal housing opportunities; and
  • Stepping up environmental enforcement and inspections.

In fact, just today, EPA Administrator Regan announced a series of concrete actions his agency is taking to help address the problems that he heard from communities during his Journey to Justice tour a couple months ago.

All of this work in 2021 is laying the groundwork for even bigger progress in the year ahead—and for decades to come.

And, yes. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to correct historic wrongs and decades of pollution and injustice in communities of color.

In 2022, we are going to work harder than ever to deliver and see more on-the-ground impacts and benefits of the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

We will have a Climate and Economic Justice Screening tool to help ensure that the benefits of Federal programs are reaching disadvantaged communities.

We will publish the first annual environmental justice scorecard to provide accountability on Justice40 and other key commitments.

We will update the environmental justice Executive Order issued by President Clinton.

We will restore basic community safeguards during Federal decision-making processes by completing our Phase 1 of reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act regulations.

And we will make a lot more progress – across the government – to cut toxic pollution, bolster community resilience, and confront longstanding environmental burdens and injustices.

We cannot do this work alone.

We need your help. We need your recommendations. And we need your partnership.

For all the work you have done, and all the work you will do, I want to reiterate my gratitude to all of you for your service, time, and dedication.

With your help, we will get this right.

And, from the President on down, we will not stop working until we deliver on the commitments we made and the justice that communities are owed.

Thank you.


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