- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
For the first time in more than a decade, the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (IWG-EJ) reconvened on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, at the White House to discuss the Administration's goals for enforcing U.S. regulatory statutes.
The interagency task force is a remnant from the Clinton Administration, begun under Executive Order 12898 (pdf) in 1994. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office issued a report criticizing President George W. Bush's administration for discontinuing the group's meetings. President Obama waited a few years to bring them back and like the first day of class, used the return session to discuss preliminaries. The group agreed to:
- Hold monthly meetings, including assigning senior officials from each agency to coordinate EJ activities.
- Organize regional listening sessions in 2011.
- Hold follow-up Principals Meetings in April and September 2011.
- Each agency will be tasked to develop or update their EJ strategy by September 2011.
- Plan a White House forum for EJ leaders and stakeholders on environmental justice.
Attendees at the meeting included Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Justice; Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of Interior; Secretary Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development; Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation; Administrator Martha Johnson, General Services Administration; Carol Browner, senior advisor to the president on energy and climate change; John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Melody Barnes, director of the White House Office of Domestic Policy; and representatives from Labor, Health and Human Services, Energy, Education, Homeland Security, Commerce, Army, Agriculture and Defense, among others.
"Environmental challenges in low-income and minority communities are barriers to opportunity. Dirty air, polluted water and contaminated lands degrade health and the environment while discouraging investments and economic growth," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We believe that the burdens these communities face are best approached with collaborative efforts, built on the strengths brought by a team of different federal agencies. Revitalizing this workgroup creates an important chance to work together on environmental justice issues that have held back the prosperity of overburdened communities for far too long."
Administrator Jackson also highlighted examples of ongoing environmental justice efforts:
- Plan EJ 2014 – A four-year roadmap to help the EPA develop stronger community relationships and increase the agency's efforts to improve environmental and health conditions in overburdened communities. The plan includes three main sections: Cross-cutting Agency Strategies, Tools Development, and Program Initiatives.
- EJ in Rulemaking Guidance – The Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action is a step-by-step guide that helps EPA staff consider environmental justice at key points in the rulemaking process.
- Sustainable Communities Partnership – A collaborative Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, and EPA partnership to improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.
Visit the group's website for more information about its plans, activities and history.
Administrator Jackson also posted a few photos from the meeting on her blog.
SOURCE: EPA Press Release.