The Justice Department recently published its first annual progress report on environmental justice
(PDF). The report fulfills a landmark commitment made by agencies across the federal government to publish a yearly progress report on a common goal: to provide all Americans – regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income status – full protection under the nation’s environmental, civil rights, and health laws.
The Department of Justice is deeply committed to this goal. We recognize that low-income, minority, and Native American communities are often disproportionately burdened with pollution, resulting in disproportionate health problems, greater obstacles to economic growth, and a lower quality of life.
Attorney General Eric Holder said:
“As reflected in the Department of Justice’s Progress Report, we are integrating the principles of environmental justice into our work and will continue to take steps to ensure that every American has full protection under the nation’s environmental, civil rights, and health laws. In fulfilling our mission, the Department is guided by the principles of environmental justice: that all Americans deserve a safe and healthy environment in which to live their lives and a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their wellbeing.”
We have achieved meaningful results for these communities, and are building a strong foundation to ensure that we achieve even greater results in the years to come.
To highlight just a few of the accomplishments:
- The Justice Department played a key role in developing the interagency memorandum of understanding (MOU) on environmental justice, which was signed by seventeen federal agencies, and also plays an active, ongoing role in the Interagency Workgroup on Environmental Justice.
- Representatives from the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices have met with dozens of communities across the country who have been affected by pollution, environmental justice advocates, the corporate community, and other stakeholders. The Community Relations Service facilitated meaningful participation in environmental decision-making through mediation and conciliation for community leaders and state and local officials.
- The Justice Department is working to achieve meaningful results for communities in its cases. In cities across the U.S., such as St. Louis, Mo. and Jersey City, N.J., the Department brought cases to address illegal discharges from aging municipal wastewater and stormwater systems. Settlements in these cases improve public health and the environment for the entire affected community, while also addressing the specific impacts violations have on disproportionately burdened communities. Litigation results benefiting communities across the country – in Massachusetts, Washington, Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Indiana, and many other states – are detailed in our report.
Every American deserves clean air, water, and land in the places where they live, work, play, and learn. This administration has made significant strides in achieving these goals, but work remains. We will continue to ensure that we are coordinating effectively with other federal agencies on these issues. We will continue to engage communities, business and industry, and state, local, and tribal governments in this effort. We will also continue to integrate environmental justice considerations into the work we do every day.
To learn more or send us your feedback and comments on environmental justice in your community, visit our environmental justice webpage at: http://www.justice.gov/ej/