Attorney General Eric Holder attended the first meeting of the reconvened Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) at the White House earlier today. This was the first meeting of the working group, established in 1994 by Executive Order 12898 (PDF), in nearly a decade. The role of the group is to guide, support and enhance federal environmental justice and community-based activities. Attorney General Holder explained why the work of this group is so critical to communities across America:
In too many areas of our country, the burden of environmental degradation falls disproportionately on low-income and minority communities – and most often, on the children who live in those communities. Our environmental laws and protections must extend to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status which is why the Department of Justice is committed to addressing environmental justice concerns through aggressive enforcement of federal environmental laws in every community.
By coordinating the expertise and resources of federal government agencies, the working group will identify projects where federal collaboration can support the development of healthy and sustainable communities. The working group will also seek opportunities to provide green jobs training in communities in need and promote a clean energy economy. At today’s meeting, members of the working group agreed on the following next steps:
- Each agency will be tasked to develop or update their environmental justice strategy by September 2011.
- A White House forum for environmental justice leaders and stakeholders will be organized.
- The working group will hold monthly meetings and each agency will assign senior officials to coordinate environmental justice activities.
- The group will organize regional listening sessions in 2011 to hear directly from the communities they are intended to serve.
- The Environmental Justice Working Group principals will meet in person twice in 2011 – once in April and again in September.
All people deserve a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work, free from pollution and environmental hazards. The Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group is committed to meeting that obligation. The Environmental Protection Agency serves as the lead for environmental justice issues in the federal government. For more information on the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice visit epa.gov.