Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2022
Julia Kane, Grist
The Biden administration on May 5th unveiled a new government office for communities that have been targeted and plagued by polluters for decades.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is launching its first-ever Office of Environmental Justice, which, along with other federal agencies, will bring cases against polluters, prioritizing the communities most affected by environmental harm.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press conference, “Communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and climate change.”
The new environmental justice office commits the DOJ to fighting these problems by “vigorously and transparently working to secure environmental justice … in communication with the communities most affected by the underlying violations of federal law,” Garland said.
The Office of Environmental Justice will be led by Cynthia Ferguson, an attorney in the department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan noted the return of “supplemental environmental projects” as a law enforcement mechanism the Trump administration had banned. The projects allow convicted polluters to fund local anti-pollution initiatives as part of penalties for breaking environmental laws. Regan said the projects were “a tool to secure tangible public health benefits for communities harmed” by illegal pollution.
Jane English, the NAACP’s environmental and climate justice program manager, welcomed the news writing: “As climate change worsens, it is imperative that our leaders produce real, tangible solutions to protect Black and frontline communities and correct existing and past harms, all while initiating direct law enforcement corrective responses to egregious harms and environmental injustices.”