Legal Terrain

Environmental Justice For All: Biden Issues New Executive Order

May 11, 2023


The reach of the environmental justice movement is now extending even further with the recent Executive Order from President Biden issued on April 21 entitled: “Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All.”  The Order establishes that a Chief Environmental Officer will head the White House Office of Environmental Justice.  The Office will serve to advance environmental justice initiatives and coordinate the development of policies and programs in all federal agencies. A central theme in the Order is to afford all people “the opportunity to meaningfully participate in agency decision-making processes that may affect the health of their community or the environment.”

One of the more interesting features of the Order is that it requires all federal agencies to commit to the causes of environmental justice. The Order requires each federal agency to develop its own Environmental Justice Strategic Plan within 18 months. Previously, within the federal government, the main agency promoting, implementing, and overseeing environmental justice was the Environmental Protection Agency. The President’s Order makes clear that the EJ effort within the federal government is much broader:

“It is the policy of my Administration to pursue a whole-of-government approach to environmental justice…In partnership with State, Tribal, territorial, and local businesses and members of the public, the Federal Government will advance environmental justice and help create a more just and sustainable future for all.”

It remains to be seen how effective the new White House Office of Environmental Justice will be in promoting these objectives. Suffice it to say, however, that the environmental justice movement, which started at the grassroots level and worked its way into the US EPA and various state governments, now has a new voice in the White House.

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