Biden Advances Environmental Agenda to Reduce Inequities

April 21, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
Biden Advances Environmental Agenda to Reduce Inequities
President Joe Biden signs an executive order that would create the White House Office of Environmental Justice in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday, April 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday that sets a priority for the federal government to address environmental pollution in disadvantaged communities.

It requires all federal agencies to review how to ensure their programs do not excessively burden low-income communities.

“Environmental justice will become the job of the entire government,” Biden said before signing the order at a White House ceremony.

He cited examples of low-income communities subjected to unclean tap water and others near ports where truck diesel fumes taint the air. He mentioned wildfires that devastated rural communities as an example of how climate change is adding urgency for environmental action.

“This is about people’s health,” Biden said. “This is about the health of our communities.”

Another part of the executive order creates an Office of Environmental Justice within the Biden administration to coordinate environmental programs of federal agencies.

Biden described his executive order as the next step in several of his environmental efforts.

One of them was the Justice 40 Initiative he announced shortly after taking office in 2021. It sets a goal of directing 40% of federal investments that could impact the environment to marginalized communities.

The investments include energy efficient transit, sustainable housing, remediation of polluted sites and cleaner wastewater infrastructure.

Biden mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act approved by Congress last year as a centerpiece of his environmental efforts. It allocates $370 billion in tax credits to the renewable energy industry.

In the six months since it was enacted, the law is credited with creating more than 100,000 clean energy jobs.

Some Republicans in Congress, such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., are less enthusiastic about Biden’s programs. They call the huge investments potentially inflationary and unrealistic in their goal of halting climate change.

Biden was joined at the White House signing ceremony by Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental health researcher, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and a member of Biden’s Task Force on Climate Change.

She told about growing up in Alabama and living with unhealthy conditions created by contaminated water.

“Now with the help of this White House we’re fixing that,” Flowers said.

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