President Biden Announces New Environmental Justice Office within CEQ

President Biden signed a new Executive Order on April 21 as part of the Administration’s whole-of-government effort to address longstanding environmental injustices and inequities. The Executive Order establishes the White House Office of Environmental Justice within the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The new office has been tasked with “coordinating the implementation of environmental justice policy across the federal government, ensuring that federal efforts can evolve alongside our understanding of environmental justice.” Beyond creating this new office, the Executive Order outlines additional requirements for federal agencies, including:

  • Directs agencies to consider measures to address and prevent disproportionate and adverse environmental and health impacts on communities, including the cumulative impacts of pollution and other burdens like climate change.
  • Requires agencies to notify nearby communities in the event of a release of toxic substances from a federal facility and to hold a public meeting to share information on resulting health risks and necessary precautions.
  • Directs agencies to identify and address gaps in science, data, and research related to environmental justice, to advance the analysis of cumulative impacts, and to make information on environmental and health concerns more publicly accessible to communities.
  • Charges federal agencies with conducting new assessments of their environmental justice efforts and developing, implementing, and periodically updating an environmental justice strategic plan.

Alongside this Executive Order, the Office of Management and Budget, CEQ, and the U.S. Digital Service published Phase One of the Environmental Justice Scorecard, a government-wide assessment of federal agencies’ efforts to advance environmental justice, including the Justice40 Initiative. The first version of the Scorecard establishes a baseline for tracking the federal government’s efforts through 24 agencies.