The Biden administration is trying to correct the disproportionate harm caused by pollution and climate change in communities of color and in low-income cities.
The first Black man to run the E.P.A., Michael S. Regan, announced on Saturday the creation of an office at the site of a toxic dump where protesters were arrested 40 years ago.
To ensure that environmental justice and civil rights are at the center of everything we do, the president and E.P.A. have been committed to not just making progress on environmental justice and civil rights, but to ensure that environmental justice and civil rights are at the forefront of everything we doSign up for the Climate Forward newsletter, for Times subscribers only. Your must-read guide to the climate crisis.
All new air, water and chemical safety regulations, many of which affect the profits of electric utilities as well as automakers and other major manufacturers, would now be inscribed with provisions that attempt to mitigate the impact of environmental damage to poor and minority communities. Stricter pollution controls could be included.
The level of stringency for protecting communities will be determined by the risk analysis done by E.P.A., and how they have been impacted over the years. We are positioned to do some things that may not have been as protective of some communities in the past.
Dollie Burwell, who was arrested at the Warren County dump in 1982 and is sometimes called the mother of environmental justice, said she saw the creation of the office as another milestone to those of us who made sacrifice.
Three smaller offices of environmental justice, civil rights and conflict prevention and resolution will be combined into one high-level office with a Senate-confirmed assistant administrator who reports directly to Mr. Regan. It will be staffed by 200 people in Washington and across the agency's 10 regional offices. The E.P.A.'s national offices of air, water and chemical pollution make up the agency's central mission of reducing pollution and protecting public health.
Ms. Burwell was excited to see the merging of the offices of civil rights and environmental justice. She said that the structural change at the E.P.A. was one step in the process of achieving environmental justice promised by President Biden. Incremental achievements are expected of a person who attended segregationist schools.
New rules are being worked on to reduce pollution from auto tailpipes, factory smokestacks, and leaks from oil and gas wells. The considerations of environmental justice could affect all of them.
A $3 billion climate and environmental justice block grant program that was created after the passage of the nation's first major climate law will be overseen by a new office with an annual budget of $100 million. $60 billion is invested in environmental justice.
The idea that all people have an equal right to protection from environmental and health hazard was championed by Mr. Biden, who was the first president to elevate environmental justice. He established a 25-member White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, the first of its kind, and called on all federal agencies to ensure that disadvantaged communities get at least 40 percent of the benefits from federal investment in clean air and water. The office of environmental justice was created by the Justice Department.
Some environmental justice activists did not give Mr. Biden a good review. A deal struck last month by Democratic leaders with Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia was criticized by Wes Gobar, a leader with the movement for black lives. Mr. Manchin provided the crucial vote to pass the climate legislation in exchange for a promise that the Senate would pass a separate bill this month to make it easier to get federal permits. The permitting bill is uncertain.
The deal exchanges the health of black people in the country in exchange for fossil fuel profits. This was not acceptable. Congress is being pushed to reject this choice by our movement.
We need to see the results of the structural changes that have been made on environmental justice. It won't make up for the federal government's ability to protect Black communities.
The administration is trying to elevate environmental justice.
At a House hearing this year on legislation intended to codify many environmental justice initiatives, Representative Graves of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis, said, "it's just a dangerous trajectory for us to continue to force this."
He said that it wouldn't yield results. There are things that can be done to solve problems for communities of color.