U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, left, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality reconvened the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) in a meeting held at the White House. The meeting was attended by five cabinet members. This gathering marks a recommitment to advancing the mandate of Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” which states that each agency, with the law as its guide, should make environmental justice part of its mission.
The role of the EJ IWG is to guide, support and enhance federal environmental justice and community-based activities. By coordinating the expertise and resources of federal government agencies, the EJ IWG will work to identify projects where federal collaboration can support the development of healthy and sustainable communities. The EJ IWG will also seek opportunities to provide green jobs training in communities in need and promote a clean energy economy.
Attendees at the meeting included Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Justice; Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of Interior; Secretary Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development; Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation; Administrator Martha Johnson, General Services Administration; Carol Browner, senior advisor to the president on energy and climate change; John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Melody Barnes, director of the White House Office of Domestic Policy; and representatives from the following federal agencies: Labor, Health and Human Services, Energy, Education, Homeland Security, Commerce, Army, Agriculture and Defense, among others.
During the meeting, some immediate next steps for the EJ IWG group were identified; these include:
· Hold monthly EJ IWG meetings, including assigning senior officials from each agency to coordinate EJ activities.
· Organize regional listening sessions in 2011.
· Hold follow-up EJ IWG Principals Meetings in April and September 2011.
· Each agency will be tasked to develop or update their EJ strategy by September 2011.
· Plan a White House forum for EJ leaders and stakeholders on environmental justice.
Administrator Jackson highlighted examples of EPA’s environmental justice efforts:
· Plan EJ 2014—A four-year roadmap to help EPA develop stronger community relationships and increase the agency’s efforts to improve environmental and health conditions in overburdened communities. The plan includes three main sections: Cross-cutting Agency Strategies, Tools Development, and Program Initiatives.
· EJ in Rulemaking Guidance—The “Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action” is a step-by-step guide that helps EPA staff consider environmental justice at key points in the rulemaking process.
· Sustainable Communities Partnership—A collaborative Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, and EPA partnership to improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.
The principles of environmental justice uphold the idea that all communities overburdened by pollution – particularly minority, low income and indigenous communities – deserve the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, equal access to the decision-making process and a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. EPA serves as the lead for environmental justice issues in the federal government.
More information on the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice
View photos from the meeting