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Biden to Create White House Office of Environmental Justice

ByTeam BB

Apr 21, 2023

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Friday plans to announce the creation of a White House Office of Environmental Justice, one of several actions to address the unequal burden that people of color carry from environmental hazards, according to the White House.

But Mr. Biden, who has indicated that he will run for re-election, is also expected to use the opportunity to portray Republicans as extremists who support the fossil fuel industry at the expense of public health and the planet, said a White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

At a ceremony planned for the Rose Garden, the president plans to sign an executive order making environmental justice a focus of every federal agency and requiring agencies to develop plans to address the disproportionate impact of pollution and climate change on minority and tribal communities, and to report their progress, the White House official said. Mr. Biden will also direct agencies to address gaps in science, data and research regarding the cumulative effects of pollution on communities of color, among other things.

Yet amid a looming showdown with Republicans over the debt ceiling, Mr. Biden also intends to contrast his concern about the environment with what the White House official called “the dangerous vision Speaker McCarthy and his extreme caucus have for our planet, our economy and public health.”

On Monday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy proposed a one-year debt ceiling increase tied to spending cuts and policy changes, including the repealing of tax incentives for electric vehicles and wind, solar and other clean energy that were central to the Inflation Reduction Act signed by Mr. Biden last year. In its place, Mr. McCarthy wants expanded fossil fuel production.

The debt limit is expected to be breached as early as July unless Congress acts to raise it.

According to the White House official, Mr. Biden will accuse “extreme MAGA Republicans” of a litany of environmental offenses, from “safeguarding handouts for Big Oil companies” to “fighting to make it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute the air we breathe.”

Decades of research has shown that the people most affected by environmental hazards are largely nonwhite and poor.

New studies have also suggested that when it comes to one of the most pernicious types of air pollution — fine particulate matter, or soot — Black Americans carry a higher burden than non-Hispanic whites or Asians, regardless of income levels. Research also suggests that Black Americans have lacked political power to block polluting facilities.

Mr. Biden was the first president to elevate environmental justice, the idea that all people have the right to protection from environmental and health hazards, as a core part of the White House agenda. He established a 25-member White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, the first of its kind, and called on all federal agencies to ensure that disadvantaged communities receive 40 percent of the benefits from federal investment in clean air and water, flood prevention, cleanup of Superfund sites, renewable energy and other improvements.

The executive order also will require that agencies notify nearby communities if a toxic substance is released from a federal facility and that they hold public meetings to share information on potential health risks.

The new White House Office of Environmental Justice is expected to coordinate initiatives across the government.

Richard Moore, a co-coordinator of the Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, N.M., and a co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, said in a statement that the executive order was “answering a decades-long call to put environmental justice at the heart of federal policy.”

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