Biden to Create White House Office of Environmental Justice
WASHINGTON President Biden on Friday announced the creation of a White House Office of Environmental Justice, one of several actions to address the unequal burden that people of color carry from environmental hazards. Every federal agency must take into account environmental and health impacts on communities and work to prevent those negative impacts, Mr. Biden told a crowd of applauding activists gathered at a Rose Garden ceremony. Environmental justice will be the mission of the entire government. Mr. Biden, who has indicated that he will run for re-election, used the opportunity to portray Republicans as extremists who support the fossil fuel industry at the expense of public health and the planet The president is clashing with Republicans over the debt limit, which is expected to be breached as soon as July unless Congress acts to raise it. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has proposed a one-year debt ceiling increase tied to spending cuts and policy changes, including the repeal of tax incentives for electric vehicles and wind, solar and other clean energy that were central to the Inflation Reduction Act signed by Mr. Biden last year. In its place, Mr. McCarthy wants expanded fossil fuel production. Ive flown over literally thousands of acres of land burned flat by wildfire because of environmental changes, Mr. Biden said Friday. Ive seen too many communities turned to rubble by storms growing more frequent and ferocious. Its an existential threat to our nation and literally to the world. I wish I could say that everyone saw it this way. But just this week, we heard Speaker McCarthy and the MAGA Republicans want to repeal climate provisions in the I.R.A. He accused them of being willing to default on American debt rather than get rid of $30 billion in taxpayer subsidies to an oil industry that made $200 billion last year. Imagine making that choice. A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy, Chad Gilmartin, said in a statement that the White House is clearly having trouble defending President Bidens reckless spending and irresponsible refusal to negotiate with Speaker McCarthy on the debt limit. Its no surprise that the administration now has to fall back on crazy accusations against the only plan in Congress that would avoid default. Mr. Biden signed an executive order requiring every federal agency to develop plans to address the disproportionate impact of pollution and climate change on minority and tribal communities, and to report their progress. It also directs agencies to address gaps in data regarding the cumulative effects of pollution on communities of color, among other things. The executive order also requires that agencies notify nearby communities if a toxic substance is released from a federal facility and that they hold public meetings to share information on potential health risks. Decades of research has shown that the people most affected by environmental hazards are largely nonwhite and poor. Studies have also suggested that, when it comes to one of the most pernicious types of air pollution, fine particulate matter, or soot, than non-Hispanic whites or Asians, regardless of income levels. Research also suggests that Black Americans have lacked political power to block polluting facilities. Imagine being a parent, scared to death what the air and water was going to do to your kids, Mr. Biden said. This kind of inequality and injustice goes against everything we stand for in this nation, but it continues to exist. Representative Bruce Westerman, Republican of Arkansas and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said the move was wasteful. The idea that creating a new office and launching new messaging campaigns will do anything other than waste tax dollars is laughable, he said. The White House in recent days has argued against Republican efforts to eliminate the Inflation Reduction Acts climate provisions. It circulated a memo focused on eight Republican congressional districts where companies have announced manufacturing projects with the assistance of money from the law. It specifically called out Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Republican from Georgia, asking Will Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green vote to eliminate the investments helping to create 2,500 solar manufacturing jobs in her district? Ms. Taylor Greene did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Biden was the first president to , the idea that all people have the right to protection from environmental and health hazards, as a core part of the White House agenda. 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 receive 40 percent of the benefits from federal investment in clean air and water, flood prevention, cleanup of Superfund sites, renewable energy and other improvements. Richard Moore, a co-coordinator of the Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, N.M., and a co-chairman of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, said the executive order was answering a decades-long call to put environmental justice at the heart of federal policy. reports on federal climate and environmental policy from Washington. She has broken multiple stories about the Trump administrations efforts to repeal climate change regulations and limit the use of science in policymaking.