Biden administration builds on commitment to environmental justice

April 21, 2023

Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683,

Rose Garden Executive branch signing

Executive Director Tom Cormons — back row, left — attended today’s White House ceremony where President Biden signed a new executive order expanding his administration’s environmental justice initiatives.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a Rose Garden ceremony this afternoon, President Joe Biden signed a new executive order building on his administration’s efforts to work to ensure that everyone in the United States can live in a safe and healthy environment, protected by the nation’s environmental and civil rights laws.

The executive order, “Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All,” makes the pursuit of environmental justice a duty for all executive branch agencies, directing agencies to look for ways to protect overburdened communities and give them a stronger voice in federal decision-making, to better analyze cumulative impacts and build a coordinated strategy for identifying gaps in data and research, and to expand interagency coordination through the establishment of a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“President Biden’s executive order today is a big step forward for real, practical action to address the profound environmental injustices affecting the health and well-being of millions of Americans every day, in every corner of the country,” Tom Cormons, executive director of Appalachian Voices, said in a statement released by the White House. Cormons, who serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, attended the ceremony.

“Together with the president’s and vice president’s commitment and vision, the absolutely tireless, sustained hard work of generations of community activists and justice leaders, my colleagues on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and the public servants at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, we have reached this milestone,” he said in the statement. “A lot more of this same resolve will be needed to implement the executive order, so some of the most important work has just begun.”

The White House announcement comes amidst a showdown over the debt ceiling and a congressional debate about ways to expedite construction of new energy projects — including clean energy and polluting fossil fuel projects — by altering the environmental permitting process.

“We urge the White House to ensure this expanded and deepened commitment to environmental justice is reflected in its discussions over the debt ceiling and environmental permitting so that environmental justice principles are not undercut by Congress,” said Cormons.

The White House announced other actions today, as well, including publishing the first Environmental Justice Scorecard, a government-wide assessment of agency efforts to advance environmental justice, and a White House Campaign for Environmental Justice to help ensure that communities have the capacity and technical assistance needed to access federal resources. In addition, the administration expanded the number of agencies with programs covered by the Justice40 initiative, which aims to ensure that 40 percent of the benefits from certain federal programs flow to disadvantaged communities.