President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order that includes a series of measures focused on environmental justice.
Among the steps Biden announced Friday is the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice in the White House. The office will coordinate all environmental justice efforts across the federal government.
What You Need To Know
- President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order containing series of measures focused on environmental justice
- Among the steps Biden announced Friday is the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice in the White House
- The order directs agencies to address gaps in science and data to better understand and prevent the impacts of pollution on people’s health
- It also directs the Office of Management and Budget, the Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Digital Service to publish the first-ever Environmental Justice Scorecard
"Look, this is about peoples' health," Biden said in a speech from the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, the eve of Earth Day. "It's about the health of our communities. It's only about the future of our planet."
The order makes “environmental justice the mission of every single executive agency,” a White House official said ahead of Biden's remarks.
It directs agencies to address gaps in science and data to better understand and prevent the impacts of pollution on people’s health. Additionally, it requires agencies to notify communities if a toxic substance is released from a federal facility.
"I grew up in Claymont, Delaware, which is just on the Pennsylvania line," Biden recalled. "The time I was growing up there ... there were more oil refineries in that neck of the woods and that southeast corner of Pennsylvania then in Houston, Texas."
The president went on to recount that when his mother would drive him to school and turn on the windshield wipers, "there'd be an oil slick on the window, literally an oil slick on the front windshield."
"How many folks across the country have had similar experiences?" Biden asked, adding: "That's why when I was running for president, I made it a priority to meet with ... environmental justice leaders."
Biden went on to tout his administration's climate and environmental agenda, which he called "the most ambitious" in U.S. history. The president highlighted provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a $1.2 trillion measure aimed at modernizing roads, bridges and ports and improving water infrastructure, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the country's largest-ever investment in addressing the climate crisis.
He hailed the latter measure as "the most significant law in U.S. history when it comes to environmental justice."
Also Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris was set to deliver a speech at the University of Miami about the administration’s efforts to combat climate change and build community resilience against extreme weather.
The White House says the order aims to “confront longstanding environmental injustices and inequities.”
“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,” a White House fact sheet said. “These communities with environmental justice concerns face even greater burdens due to climate change.”
The order also directs the Office of Management and Budget, the Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Digital Service to publish the first-ever Environmental Justice Scorecard, a government-wide assessment of federal agencies’ efforts on environmental justice. The first scorecard will serve as a baseline, and subsequent ones will help gauge the impact of the administration’s actions.
The Biden administration also is launching the White House Campaign for Environmental Justice. The campaign aims to better connect people with federal agency resources related to environmental issues, with an emphasis placed on “marginalized and overburdened communities.”
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is releasing a draft of its national strategy for preventing plastic pollution and mitigating its impacts on affected communities.
And three federal agencies – the Commerce Department, the National Science Foundation and NASA – announced which of their programs would be included in the Biden administration’s Justice40 initiative. Justice40 sets a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments reach disadvantaged communities.
During his speech, Biden drew contrasts between his administration’s environmental justice and climate agenda and the “dangerous vision” of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and others in his party.
Last month, House Republicans, along with four Democrats, passed a bill that would undo virtually all of Biden’s agenda to address climate change, including by increasing domestic production of oil, natural gas and coal.
“Speaker McCarthy and his extreme caucus’ proposals, including H.R. 1, would be a climate and health disaster that President Biden won’t allow on his watch,” the White House officials said.
In his remarks Friday, Biden hailed that his administration is "making major investments in clean energy in disadvantaged communities to lower energy costs and create good-paying jobs," before criticizing McCarthy's proposals as harmful to both the environment and the economy.
"This is not your father's Republican Party," Biden said. "The MAGARepublicans in Congress want to repeal climate provisions and the Inflation Reduction Act. They'd rather threaten to default on the U.S. economy ... rather than get rid of $30 billion taxpayer subsidies to an oil industry that made $200 billion last year. Imagine making that choice."
"Imagine seeing all that's happened – the wildfires, the floods, the storms – and doing nothing about it," the president said. "Nothing about it. Imagine taking all these clean energy jobs away from working-class folks all across America. Imagine turning your back on all those moms and dads living in towns poisoned by pollution and telling them 'sorry, you're on your own.'"
"We can't let that happen," Biden pledges. "I mean, really can't let that happen. That's why this executive order, in my view, is so important."
In an email to Spectrum News, a spokesperson in McCarthy's office said: "For two years, President Biden and House Democrats’ reckless spending and green new deal agenda has produced record inflation and higher prices for American families while making China stronger at our expense. By contrast, House Republicans are committed to strengthening American energy production by streamlining the permitting process and advancing technologies that make America more competitive and the world cleaner. This will strengthen our economy, curb inflation, and make us less dependent on China."
Note: This article was updated to include the statement from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's office.