President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to expand on his administration’s environmental justice goals, which include delivering clean air and water to communities nationwide. The first-of-its-kind order establishes the Office of Environmental Justice at the White House.
“For far too long, communities across our country have faced persistent environmental injustice through toxic pollution, underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services, and other disproportionate environmental harms often due to a legacy of racial discrimination including redlining,” White House officials said in an online release. “These communities with environmental justice concerns face even greater burdens due to climate change.”
The White House said Biden’s goal is to ensure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status or race and ethnicity, reaps the benefits of cleaner air and water.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris believe that every person has a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy community—now and into the future,” White House officials stated. “During his first week in office, President Biden launched the most ambitious environmental justice agenda in our nation’s history.
“To continue delivering on that vision, today the President will sign an executive order further embedding environmental justice into the work of federal agencies to achieve real, measurable progress that communities can count on.”
The executive order is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government effort to confront longstanding environmental injustices and inequities, White House officials continued.
“For far too long, communities across our country have faced persistent environmental injustice through toxic pollution, underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services, and other disproportionate environmental harms often due to a legacy of racial discrimination including redlining,” they wrote.
“These communities with environmental justice concerns face even greater burdens due to climate change.”
Administration officials said the order aims to better protect overburdened communities from pollution and environmental harms. Biden’s actions direct agencies to consider measures to address and prevent disproportionate and adverse environmental and health impacts on communities, including the cumulative impacts of pollution and other burdens like climate change.
Additionally, the White House said it requires agencies to notify nearby communities in the event of a release of toxic substances from a federal facility and to hold a public meeting to share information on resulting health risks and necessary precautions.
Further, the order honors and builds on the foundation of ongoing environmental justice work, officials said.
Under the executive order, agencies will continue their efforts to advance environmental justice in ways that complement and deepen prior work.
The executive order uses the term “disproportionate and adverse” as a simpler, modernized version of the phrase “disproportionately high and adverse” used in a previous executive order.
“Those phrases have the same meaning but removing the word ‘high’ eliminates potential misunderstanding that agencies should only be considering large disproportionate effects,” officials said.
Read more about the executive order here.
Stacy M. Brown is the national NNPA Newswire senior correspondent.
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