By Karen Stokes
After a year of progress on advancing environmental justice, on Monday the Biden-Harris Administration launched a Justice40 Week of Action to highlight additional steps that are delivering real benefits to communities across the country.
“We are using the week to highlight some of the key areas of the Justice40 initiative,” said Brenda Mallory, chair of the Whitehouse Council on Environmental Quality.
As part of this historic commitment to environmental justice, President Biden created the Justice40 Initiative to ensure that federal agencies deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities.
“One thing that was announced, our recent expenditures of dollars. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $500 million in the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding is going to be used to replace the nation’s fleet of school buses with clean, American made, zero emissions buses,” said Mallory.
Using the funding, the EPA announced $1.3 billion for various grants that will remediate and reduce pollution, such as cleaning up brownfield and Superfund sites, and reducing lead in drinking water, to benefit disadvantaged communities.
“Recently Vice President Harris was at a location in New Jersey where the funding was being used directly to remove lead pipes,” said Mallory. “That’s an example of it actually occurring on the ground.”
The Department of the Interior (DOI) also announced $725 million for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. Funds will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental hazards and pollution caused by past coal mining, while creating good-paying jobs.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $759.7 million for grants to support sustainable and affordable housing in disadvantaged, Tribal, and low-socioeconomic communities, including $365 million to identify, remediate, and protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged from the harmful effects of lead-based paints in homes.
The White House also announced the launch of a Justice40 stakeholder engagement series meeting with leaders of the agencies, states and at the community level that will bring Administration officials into communities to both listen to the concerns of stakeholders and identify ways to magnify the impact of Justice40 covered programs.
“The idea for Justice40 week of action is that we wanted to use it as an opportunity to make new announcements like the school buses but also bring attention to the work that has been going on across the country that’s related to environmental justice,” Mallory said.
An additional announcement out today is the White House launched a new website, whitehouse.gov/EnvironmentalJustice.
“It will give folks one place that they can go for centralized information on what’s happening in the environmental Justice area across the government,” Mallory said.