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Biden Administration Announces New EPA Office Focused on Achieving Environmental Justice for Underserved Communities

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The Biden administration recently announced the launch of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new office that’s dedicated to championing civil rights and achieving environmental justice.

With the new office, the Environmental Protection Agency, also known as the EPA, will focus on solving environmental issues in underserved communities. Known as the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights Office, the new program will combine three existing programs and have more than 200 EPA employees work alongside these communities to address any environmental concerns they have. 

Grants totaling up to $3 billion will also be given to these underserved communities along with any technical assistance they may need. The Senate will appoint an Assistant Administrator to lead the project in an announcement set to be made later in the year.

The office’s official announcement was made in a ceremony yesterday by Michael Regan, the first Black person to serve as an administrator in the EPA. 

“In the past, many of our communities have had to compete for very small grants because EPA’s pot of money was extremely small,” Regan said in an interview per the L.A. Times. “We’re going from tens of thousands of dollars to developing and designing a program that will distribute billions, but we’re also going to be sure that this money goes to those who need it the most and those who’ve never had a seat at the table.”

The ceremony was held in Warren County, N.C. Just 40 years ago, the county made headlines as the founders of the environmental justice movement. In the predominantly Black county, a toxic waste dump was put in place by the government. Housing the hazardous waste, PCB, in the landfill was a cheaper way for the Ward Transformer Company to get rid of the toxic soil. As a response to the dump’s placement, protests organized by the NAACP ensued, inspiring the United Church of Christ to publish a report proving that race played the most significant part in deciding where hazardous waste was moved to. 

Giving birth to the environmental justice movement, the issue prompted presidents to begin to sign legislation that protects BIPOC communities from toxic waste. 

With the new office, the EPA’s building on formerly announced environmental justice plans by President Biden. Since the beginning of his term, Biden has focused on setting laws and beginning initiatives that address environmental issues. 

“I am grateful that President Biden has been a partner in our efforts to comprehensively protect American communities from environmental hazards,” said the Chair of House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, in an official statement. “With the launch of a new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, the Biden administration has not only solidified its commitment to environmental justice, it has also made a historic step toward environmental equity for all Americans.”

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