White House group begins push for environmental justice
By Krissah Thompson
Several Cabinet officials gathered today to restart the federal government's effort to stop environmental discrimination. The interagency working group on environmental justice, which had not met for a decade, came together at the White House on Wednesday morning to discuss ways to insure that low-income and minority communities don't unfairly bear the brunt of environmental pollution.
Officials, who included EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, also discussed how to coordinate the federal government's efforts to promote green jobs.
"There was a high level of energy in the room," Jackson said in an interview after the meeting. "We need to show people across the country that we are committed to having healthy communities and a strong economy. The next level means finding innovations and efficiencies by working together. That's something this administration is committed to. That's what today was about."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, General Services Administrator Martha Johnson and three top White House officials also attended the meeting. The White House is also planning to host an environmental justice forum this year, and senior officials from each department plan to begin monthly meetings to make sure each agency is using its power to deal with environmental justice issues.
"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," Holder said in a statement. "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."
According to a statement from the EPA, "Pollution, like dirty air and contaminated water, can have significant economic impacts on overburdened and low-income communities, driving away investment in new development and new jobs and exposing residents to potentially costly health threats.
"This historic gathering marks a recomitment to advancing the mandate of Executive Order 12898 ... which states that each agency, with the law as its guide, should make environmental justice part of its mission."
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| September 22, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
Categories: Administration, Agencies and Departments
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