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New Focus On Environmental Justice

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


The Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice met this week at the White House renewing the federal government's commitment to equal environmental protection for all. The group plans to review and update its strategies for addressing disproportionate environmental impacts on poor, minority or tribal communities consistent with Executive Order 12898 "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low–Income Populations." The Executive Order, issued in 1994, mandates that each agency make environmental justice part of its mission.

The working group consists of the following federal agencies: Department of Agriculture; Department of Commerce; Department of Defense; Department of Energy; Environmental Protection Agency; Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of Interior; Department of Justice; Department of Labor; Department of Transportation; and, White House Offices. During its first meeting in ten years, the group agreed to:

  1. hold monthly meetings;
  2. organize regional listening sessions in 2011;
  3. hold follow up group principals' meetings in April and September 2011;
  4. update environmental justice strategies within each member agency; and,
  5. plan a White House Forum for environmental justice leaders and stakeholders.

In light of this renewed commitment by the Interagency Working Group, we likely can expect to see more emphasis on environmental justice considerations in federal environmental matters. More insight on the group and its recent meeting is available at