U.S. EPA Launches New Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Office
EPA’s historic Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights will position the agency to better advance environmental justice, enforce civil rights laws in overburdened communities, and deliver new grants and technical assistance
EPA announced that it is establishing a new national office charged with advancing environmental justice and civil rights. The creation of the new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights delivers on President Biden’s commitment to elevate these critical issues to the highest levels of the government and solidifies the agency’s commitment to delivering justice and equity for all.
The new office will dedicate more than 200 EPA staff in EPA headquarters and across 10 regions towards solving environmental challenges in communities that have been underserved for far too long. These staff will engage with communities with environmental justice concerns to understand their needs, as well as Tribal, state, and local partners; manage and disburse historic levels of grants and technical assistance; work with other EPA offices to incorporate environmental justice into the agency’s programs, policies, and processes, as allowed by law; and ensure EPA funding recipients comply with applicable civil rights laws. The office will be led by a U.S. Senate-confirmed Assistant Administrator, to be announced at a later date.
“President Biden and I have been clear: we must ground our work to address the climate crisis and our greatest environmental challenges in justice and equity,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. “The establishment of a new office dedicated to advancing environmental justice and civil rights at EPA will ensure the lived experiences of underserved communities are central to our decision-making while supporting community-driven solutions.”
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“From day one, President Biden and EPA have been committed to delivering progress on environmental justice and civil rights and ensuring that underserved and overburdened communities are at the forefront of our work,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “With the launch of a new national program office, we are embedding environmental justice and civil rights into the DNA of EPA and ensuring that people who’ve struggled to have their concerns addressed see action to solve the problems they’ve been facing for generations.”
Administrator Regan announced the creation of the new office alongside environmental justice and civil rights leaders in Warren County, North Carolina, which was the site of protests 40 years ago that launched the environmental justice movement.
The new office will oversee the implementation and delivery of a $3 billion climate and environmental justice block grant program created by the Inflation Reduction Act, a critical component of the law’s historic $60 billion investment in environmental justice. The office also will ensure EPA’s implementation of other funding programs provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and regular appropriations meet or exceed the President’s Justice40 Initiative.
The new office is the latest significant action under President Biden’s aggressive approach to embed environmental justice, civil rights, and equity across the government, and follows the launch of several initiatives designed to address the impacts faced by those living in underserved communities overburdened by pollution. Initiatives include the establishment of the first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC); the launch of the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to provide 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investments relating to climate change, clean energy, and related areas to disadvantaged communities; and more than 200 policy actions to move the President’s ambitious environmental justice and civil rights agenda forward.