The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) announced that it is establishing a new national office charged with advancing environmental justice and civil rights.
The new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights will dedicate more than 200 EPA staff in EPA headquarters and across 10 regions toward solving environmental challenges in underserved communities, according to a press release.
These staffers 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.
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.
"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 in a statement.
U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), co-chairs of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, jointly stated, "For too long, our most toxic, polluting industries have been located next door to Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-income communities at the expense of their health while too many in power have looked the other way. Racial justice, civil rights and equity should be prioritized in every aspect of our nationincluding in environmental justice and climate action.
"We're proud to see that EPA is continuing to heed the calls of our Environmental Justice Caucus and countless EJ advocates by launching this office to help protect long-underserved communities."