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Biden creates Office of Environmental Justice requiring all federal agencies to address 'disproportionate environmental harms often due to a legacy of racial discrimination'

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden is scheduled to sign an executive order on Friday that will create the Office of Environmental Justice in the White House and require all federal agencies to commit to addressing "disproportionate environmental harms often due to a legacy of racial discrimination."

The order is meant to "revitalize" the administration's "commitment to environmental justice for all" and recognize that "racism is a fundamental driver of environmental injustice."

A fact sheet posted by the White House on Friday revealed that the administration's latest executive order will "expand interagency coordination and launch a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House Council on Environmental Quality."

The Office of Environmental Justice will be led by the federal chief environmental justice officer, who has yet to be named. The office will be responsible for "coordinating the implementation of environmental justice policy across the federal government."

The executive order seeks to implement a "whole-of-government" approach to address climate concerns.

"For far too long, communities across our country have faced persistent environmental injustice through toxic pollution, underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services, and other disproportionate environmental harms often due to a legacy of racial discrimination including redlining. These communities with environmental justice concerns face even greater burdens due to climate change," the White House wrote in a Friday statement.

"With this action, the President is working to ensure that all people – regardless of race, background, income, ability, Tribal affiliation, or zip code – can benefit from the vital safeguards enshrined in our nation's foundational environmental and civil rights laws," the statement continued.

The latest order also adjusts language in Former President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations."

The 1994 order states that every federal agency "shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects."

Biden's order provides a "modernized version" by updating the language to read "disproportionate and adverse."

According to the White House fact sheet, the administration removed the word "high" to eliminate "potential misunderstanding that agencies should only be considering large disproportionate effects."

The administration vowed to provide communities with cleaner air and water, reduce asthma and cancer risks, and create safe and affordable housing.

The Friday signing ceremony will take place in the Rose Garden and will be attended by environmental justice leaders and climate activists.

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