By Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, Federal Chief Environmental Justice Officer

When President Biden signed Executive Order (E.O.) 14096 on Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, he called on the federal government to bring clean energy and healthy environments to all, and to recognize, undo, and mitigate harms to those who have suffered from pollution and the cumulative impacts of other environmental burdens like climate change.

To deepen the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government commitment to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities for all, E.O. 14096 makes clear that the pursuit of environmental justice is a duty of all executive branch agencies and that federal agencies should be taking action now to incorporate this charge into their missions.

Each agency’s mission is unique, and so will be each agency’s approach to demonstrating leadership and advancing environmental justice. To support agencies in their work to further embed environmental justice into the federal DNA and deliver real, measurable progress, this week the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a playbook for agencies to help develop their Environmental Justice Strategic Plans.

As the first holistic guidance on environmental justice strategic planning issued by the White House, this serves as a ‘how-to guide’ for agencies as they work to confront longstanding environmental injustices and inequities. It includes planning tools and a template to assist agencies in the development of their strategic plans that will be tailored to each agency’s work.

The Strategic Planning to Advance Environmental Justice template brings a new era of transparency, consistency, and accountability for environmental justice by providing agencies with a concrete roadmap for meeting the charges President Biden set forth in E.O. 14096. This includes ensuring agencies use specific planning and performance measures that will pave the way for effective implementation for years to come.

Drawing from leading practices and recommendations created by government performance and planning experts, the playbook encourages agencies to:

  • Set clear goals and identify strategies to make real, meaningful progress for communities in the short and long-term.
  • Seek public input and provide opportunities for meaningful involvement, engagement, and Tribal consultation in the course of developing Environmental Justice Strategic Plans.
  • Collaborate with other agencies and integrate core environmental justice goals with other planning processes, including overall agency-wide strategic plans, to promote harmonization and efficiency.
  • Identify quantifiable performance metrics and priority actions that can be tracked to help reach the agency’s environmental justice objectives.

Effective strategic planning promotes accountability and transparency – for agencies and the public. Environmental Justice Strategic Plans will be submitted to CEQ and made available to the public. This playbook also highlights the value of federal agencies using specific performance measures to follow recommendations by the U.S. Government Accountability Office to assess, track, and measure progress in achieving their environmental justice goals.

The playbook will help make real the far-reaching parts of President Biden’s vision of environmental justice for all – so every person breathes clean air, drinks clean water, and lives in a healthy community. It is a key step to creating measurable, meaningful results for communities with environmental justice concerns across the nation and ensuring that the federal government works for all people.

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