President Joseph Biden has signed an executive order to advance environmental justice efforts in the federal government.
This order adds requirements for federal agencies to engage with environmental justice concerns. This order will likely affect the operations of federal agencies in the water industry, such as the U.S. EPA, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and more.
The executive order, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, includes a number of key actions affecting federal agencies:
- Launches a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and adds other agencies to the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council. The White House’s Office of Environmental Justice will coordinate the implementation of environmental justice policy across the federal government.
- Requires government agencies to conduct new assessments of their environmental justice efforts, including the development, implementation, and periodic update of an environmental justice strategic plan. The White House will grade these efforts using what it calls an Environmental Justice Scorecard.
- Orders agencies to identify and address gaps in science related to environmental justice and to make information on environmental and health concerns more publicly accessible. To this end, the order is creating an Environmental Justice Subcommittee within the National Science and Technology Council.
- Orders agencies to consider ways to prevent disproportionate environmental and health harms for communities, including pollution and effects of climate change.
- Directs agencies to facilitate public participation in agency decision-making.
The order says hat the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality will issue guidance on agencies' implementation of the order requirements within six months.
The order builds on an executive order signed in 1994, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, which meant to focus federal efforts on the disproportionate adverse effects of environmental and health concerns for underserved communities.