Updated Apr 21, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Biden signs order expanding environmental justice push

President Biden signs an executive order on environmental justice.

President Joe Biden signs an executive order in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 21. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order Friday aimed at ensuring federal decisions consider "environmental justice," which addresses higher pollution burdens often faced by communities of color and people living in poverty.

Driving the news: The new executive order directs agencies to identify and address data and science gaps to help better understand cumulative environmental impacts.

Details: Agencies will "consider measures to address and prevent disproportionate and adverse environmental and health impacts on communities," such as the cumulative effects of pollution and climate change, according to a White House fact sheet.

  • Agencies are also now required to notify nearby communities when toxic substances are released from a federal facility, and to hold public meetings to share information on health risks and precautions as needed.
  • This effort will be coordinated via a new branch within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is headed by a cabinet-level official.

Zoom in: Other pieces, per a White House summary, include:

  • Creating a new Office of Environmental Justice within the existing White House Council on Environmental Quality.
  • Calling on agencies across the government to conduct new assessments of their ongoing environmental justice efforts.

What we don't know: How, if at all, the burst of new efforts will affect specific decisions, given that the Biden administration has already sought to stitch environmental justice into the fabric of federal policymaking.

Meanwhile, beyond the order, the White House is unveiling other steps.

  • One will be publication Friday of the first environmental justice "scorecard," which will provide a "baseline for tracking the federal government's efforts through 24 agencies," a summary states.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect that Biden has signed the order and include additional details about it.

Go deeper