Biden administration creates new environmental justice office

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The Biden administration on Tuesday announced the creation of an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) to tackle climate-related issues “to protect the health of disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations on the frontlines of pollution.”

The office will be part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is within the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity.

“By creating this new office and prioritizing environmental justice at HHS, Secretary [Xavier] Becerra is undertaking the type of bold institutional reform that is desperately needed to deliver clean air and clean water for all communities,” White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a key step toward confronting environmental injustice – in all of its heartbreaking forms – with the full force and commitment of the Federal government.” 

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Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra arrives for a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 5, 2022. On Tuesday, his agency announced the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ).

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra arrives for a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 5, 2022. On Tuesday, his agency announced the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ). (Xavier Becerra environmental justice ofice)

The new office will lead initiatives to integrate environmental justice into the HHS mission in an effort to improve health in disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations, the agency said. 

Tuesday’s announcement came months after the Justice Department launched a similar program focused on environmental justice last year. 

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“The blunt truth is that many communities across our nation – particularly low-income communities and communities of color – continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land use decisions, transportation, and trade corridors,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention. That’s why HHS is establishing the Office of Environmental Justice.”