By Karen Stokes
Today, Attorney General of the United States Merrick B. Garland and Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Michael S. Regan will announce significant measures to achieve Environmental Justice at the Department of Justice this afternoon.
“Although violations of our environmental laws can happen anywhere, communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and climate change,” said Attorney General Garland in a speech today. “For far too long, these communities have faced barriers to accessing the justice they deserve. The Office of Environmental Justice will serve as the central hub for our efforts to advance our comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy. We will prioritize the cases that will have the greatest impact on the communities most overburdened by environmental harm.”
Whitehouse Deputy National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi said,” I think we see environmental injustices in many different ways, in different communities around the country.
“For example, the presence of lead pipes in communities and addressing that is something the Administration is very focused on and the President has secured funding and developed an entire strategy to help reduce the exposure that kids have to lead pipes.”
Environmental injustices also are prevalent in the workplace.
“The challenges our farm workers have faced in the form of pesticides, the EPA under the Biden Administration has issued the first ever standards to address one of these powerful sources of toxic exposure,” said Zaidi.
For the first time ever the Department of Labor under the Biden Administration is setting standards and ramping up enforcement around extreme heat that impacts construction workers and people working in building trades.
“The Administration is making sure employers follow the best practices in terms of protecting workers from that extreme heat so that the threats of environmental injustices in that context are many but we’re taking a multitude of approaches to address that,” Zaidi said.
The Justice Department also launched its first-ever Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) within ENRD today. This new office will be a critical resource as the Justice Department implements the new comprehensive enforcement strategy. Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim named Cynthia Ferguson, an experienced ENRD attorney with more than a decade working on environmental justice issues, as Acting Director.