May 5, 2022 - Energy & Environment

DOJ launches office focused on environmental justice

Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland during a news conference at the Department of Justice on May 5. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday announced the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice along with a series of actions "to secure environmental justice for all Americans."

Why it matters: Environmental justice seeks to ensure that all people — regardless of race, class, or national origin — receive equal protection from environmental and health hazards, and are equally able to participate in the creation and implementation of environmental laws, per the Environmental Protection Agency.

The big picture: The new office will help "oversee and help guide" the justice department's efforts on environmental justice, Garland said during a press briefing Thursday morning.

  • It is being launched alongside the department's new environmental justice enforcement strategy.
  • The department also issued an Interim Final Rule, restoring its ability to use supplemental environmental projects "to compensate victims and remedy violations of federal environmental laws," Garland added.

What they're saying: “Although violations of our environmental laws can happen anywhere, communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and climate change,” Garland said in a statement.

  • “OEJ will prioritize meaningful and constructive engagement with the communities most affected by environmental crime and injustice," he added during the press conference.

The bottom line: "The Justice Department has three essential responsibilities — upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe and protecting civil rights," Garland said. "Seeking and securing justice for communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental harms is a task demanded by all three of those responsibilities."

Go deeper: Hard Truths: Environmental Justice and the U.S. Government

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