The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formed a new office designed to help marginalized communities deal with the extra burdens of pollution and climate change, Reuters has reported. The Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights will be staffed by 200 EPA employees located in the agency's Washington head office and 10 regional bureaus.
"The establishment of a new office dedicated to advancing environmental justice and civil rights at EPA will ensure the lived experiences of underserved communities are central to our decision-making while supporting community-driven solutions," said US Vice President Kamala Harris.
One of the primary jobs of the new office will be to oversea the distribution of $3 billion in environmental justice grants created by the passage the of Inflation Reduction Act, as part of a $60 billion investment in environmental justice. It'll also check that other EPA programs hew to President Biden's Justice40 initiative designed to ensure that 40 percent of certain government investments flow to disadvantaged communities. Finally, it'll help communities access grants, enforce civil rights laws and resolve environmental conflicts.
The new office was launched at an event in Warren County, North Carolina, the site of 1982 protests over toxic waste dumping in the region. The resulting civil disobedience actions and arrests failed to stop the 22-acre dump, but gave birth to the modern environmental justice movement. The 40th anniversary of the protests was commemorated by participants last week.