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“The Interagency Council shall develop a strategy to address current and historic environmental injustice by consulting with the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and with local environmental justice leaders.”Executive Order 14008 on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad“
What is the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (IAC)?
As part of President Biden’s historic commitment to environmental justice, he created the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (IAC) when he signed Executive Order 14008 just days after taking office.
Executive Order 14008 charges the IAC with developing “a strategy to address current and historic environmental injustice by consulting with the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and with local environmental justice leaders.” It further requires the IAC to “develop clear performance metrics to ensure accountability, and publish an annual public performance scorecard on its implementation.” The IAC was also responsible for recommending updates to Executive Order 12898 on Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.
What Federal agencies serve on the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council?
Principals of the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council
What environmental justice issues has the IAC addressed?
The IAC and all of its members have played an important role in the development and execution of the following:
- The Justice40 Initiative: Federal agencies have shared best practices and lessons learned to implementing the government-wide Justice40 Initiative. In addition, the IAC was consulted in the development of the Interim Implementation Guidance for the Justice40 Initiative, which was issued on July 20, 2021.
- The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST): The IAC provided input to inform CEQ’s creation of a beta – or draft – version of the CEJST. During the beta phase, Federal agencies involved with the IAC have also provided ongoing feedback for improving the beta version of the CEJST.
- The Environmental Justice Scorecard: In March 2022, the IAC received the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s (WHEJAC) phase one recommendations on the Environmental Justice Scorecard, and is actively reviewing these recommendations. At the same time, IAC committee and subcommittee chairs have provided significant input on the types of environmental justice-related strategies, policies, and activities that could be included in the Environmental Justice Scorecard that relate to their committee’s work. IAC committee and subcommittee chairs have shared those recommendations during IAC meetings. Moving forward, the IAC will work with CEQ, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the U.S. Digital Service, as outlined in Executive Order 14008, to determine next steps in developing an Environmental Justice Scorecard, which the Federal Government will build on and improve, year after year.
- Update to Executive Order 12898: The IAC provided feedback on how Executive Order 12898 should be updated, and also provided comments on the WHEJAC recommendations regarding the revisions to Executive Order 12898, which were included in the WHEJAC’s May 2021 report.
How does the IAC work?
The IAC has numerous committees that meet on a regular basis to discuss the all-of-government commitment to environmental justice. The committee meetings are attended by staff dedicated to advancing President Biden’s environmental justice agenda. When matters are ready for resolution, they are brought to the attention of the full IAC and voted on during formal IAC meetings.
The IAC replaced the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (IWG), which was established in 1994 and convened by the Environmental Protection Agency. In Executive Order 14008, President Biden created the IAC in order to elevate the body and enable the Executive Office of the President to coordinate interagency efforts on environmental justice. All of the former IWG committees have been included in the IAC and new committees have been created. Committees include: the Justice40 Initiative, NEPA, Public Participation, Rural Communities, Strategy and Implementation, Regional, Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples, Impacts from Commercial Transportation – Goods Movement, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and Natural Disasters & Environmental Justice.
Executive Orders Directing Agencies to Take Action on Environmental Justice
The landmark executive order on environmental justice, Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994 on Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations stated that “each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States and its territories and possessions, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands.”
As envisioned by Executive Order 14008, the White House is developing a new executive order to update Executive Order 12898. In addition, within days of taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration built on the legacy of Executive Order 12898 by issuing numerous executive orders that advance environmental justice, and seek to secure a more equitable and just future for all:
Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad on January 27, 2021
Executive Order 13990 on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis on January 20, 2021
Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government on January 20, 2021
Executive Order 14052 on Implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on November 15, 2021
Executive Order 14057 on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability on December 8, 2021
Furthermore, Executive Order 14008 directed every Federal agency to consider environmental justice as part of their missions.
“Agencies shall make achieving environmental justice part of their missions by developing programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities, as well as the accompanying economic challenges of such impacts.”Executive Order 14008 on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad”