The Justice Department will establish a new office to deal with issues of environmental justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday.
According to Garland, the Office of Environmental Justice "will serve as the central hub for our efforts to advance our comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy," and will coordinate with agencies in other departments such as the Civil Rights Division and the offices of United States Attorneys, in order to "prioritize meaningful and constructive engagement with the communities most affected by environmental crime and injustice."
Garland said, "In our environmental enforcement efforts, we will prioritize the cases that will have the greatest impact on the communities most overburdened by environmental harm.”
He went on to add that "communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution and climate change."
A recent “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association found “that the burden of living with unhealthy air is not shared equally. Close to 19.8 million people live in the 14 counties that failed all three measures. Of those, 14.1 million are people of color. People of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with failing grades for all three pollutants.”
The OEJ will be led by attorney Cynthia Ferguson, who previously worked in the Environmental Enforcement Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
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