“We’ve put environmental justice at the center of what we do, addressing the disproportionate health, environmental, and economic impacts that have been borne primarily by communities of color — places too often left behind”President Joe Biden, Earth Day 2022
For far too long, communities across our country have faced environmental injustices, bearing the brunt of toxic pollution, enduring underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services, and suffering disproportionate impacts from climate change.
President Biden and Vice President Harris campaigned on confronting longstanding environmental injustices and inequities, and they have delivered with actions that make a positive difference in people’s lives. Since coming into office, they have worked tirelessly to ensure that, the voices, perspectives, and lived experiences of environmental justice communities are heard in the White House and reflected in the priorities, policies, investments, and decision-making of the Federal Government.
During his first week in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, launching the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever undertaken by the Federal Government. Executive Order 14008 recognizes that all Americans deserve to live in healthy, thriving communities, but, in fact, too many people lack access to safe places to live, work, play, grow, and learn. Building on the foundational efforts of Executive Order 12898 on Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, Executive Order 14008 established several brand-new environmental justice initiatives, including:
- The White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (IAC), an inter-governmental body comprised of the heads of key Federal agencies that seeks to advance environmental justice across the Biden-Harris Administration and is developing strategies to address current and historic environmental injustice.
- The first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), an advisory committee comprised of environmental justice leaders and experts, which advises the IAC and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on ways to increase the Federal Government’s efforts on environmental justice.
- The government-wide Justice40 Initiative, which aims to provide 40 percent of the overall benefits of Federal investments relating to climate change, clean energy, and other areas to disadvantaged communities who are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.
- The development of a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, which seeks to help agencies identify disadvantaged communities for the purposes of the Justice40 Initiative and thereby inform equitable decision-making across the Federal Government.
- The establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard, which will track Federal agency performance on environmental justice, including on the Justice40 Initiative.
Securing environmental justice for all is not a goal that can be achieved in one year, nor through a single initiative. For the Biden-Harris Administration, environmental justice is a whole-of-government commitment that requires early, meaningful, and sustained partnership with communities and dedicated leadership in Federal agencies.
The Biden-Harris Administration has taken more than 200 actions to repair the damage caused by the prior Administration’s rollbacks and implemented an ambitious regulatory agenda to address environmental justice. The Administration has revoked usage of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that has negative health impacts on farmworkers and children, and also taken action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a dangerous “forever chemical” linked to certain cancers, weakened immunity, thyroid disease, and other adverse health effects. These are just a few examples of actions that the Biden-Harris Administration has implemented to protect the health and well-being of vulnerable communities.
Further, agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture, have launched new or strengthened equity and justice offices, strategies, and policies to pursue environmental justice and support on-the-ground change in communities. The Biden-Harris Administration also has taken steps to enhance civil and criminal enforcement of environmental violations in communities overburdened by pollution.
Since day one, President Biden and Vice-President Harris have worked tirelessly to secure historic and long overdue investments in environmental justice, advance science-based regulations that reduce environmental pollution, strengthen enforcement of the nation’s environmental and civil rights laws, and elevate the voices of environmental justice communities in the White House and throughout the Administration.