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Press Release - ICYMI: Biden-Harris Administration Organizes Justice40 Week of Action to Highlight Historic Environmental Justice Investments

May 27, 2022

Leaders, Advocates, Governors, and Members of Congress Applaud Administration's Continued Commitment to Environmental Justice

The Biden-Harris Administration organized a Justice40 Week of Action to build on President Biden's Justice40 Initiative, which directs 40 percent of the benefits from climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities.

President Biden's Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad laid the foundation for the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever undertaken in United States history—committing to center communities overburdened by pollution, on the frontlines of climate impacts, and marginalized by decades of underinvestment in federal policies, priorities, and investments.

In total, hundreds of federal programs, representing billions of dollars in annual investment—including programs that were funded or created in the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—are being transformed to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative.

This past week, the Biden-Harris Administration built on this progress with new actions, including:

Last Friday

  • Launched Clean School Bus Program: To kick off the week ahead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $500 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to begin replacing the nation's fleet of school buses with clean, American-made, zero-emission buses, while prioritizing applications from school districts serving disadvantaged communities. Vice President Kamala Harris, Administrator Michael S. Regan, and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu visited Meridian High School in Falls Church, Virginia to make the announcement and highlight how it will reduce greenhouse gas pollution, provide cleaner air around schools and communities, and better protect children's health.

Monday

  • Outlined Progress on Key Recommendations: The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a report submitted to Congress, outlining steps the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to implement recommendations from the first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), including regarding the Justice40 Initiative.
  • Released Snapshot of Justice40 Funding Rollouts To-Date: The White House Office of Management and Budget released a snapshot of over $29 billion in new funding opportunity notifications and announcements that the Biden-Harris Administration has already rolled out to deliver on the Justice40 Initiative—with much more on the way. To put that figure in context, the President's FY 2023 budget request for all climate and environmental justice discretionary funding for the entire government totals about $45 billion.
  • Kicked-off Stakeholder Engagement Series: The White House launched a Justice40 stakeholder engagement series to provide updates on how leaders at the agency, state, and community level are using the mandate of the President's Justice40 Initiative to deliver benefits to disadvantaged communities, and for Administration officials to hear community input on opportunities to maximize these benefits.
  • Launched Environmental Justice Website: The White House launched a new website, WhiteHouse.gov/EnvironmentalJustice, to provide a public platform and centralized location for the Administration's environmental justice priorities, including the Justice40 Initiative.

Tuesday

  • Promoted Equity and Diversity in Clean Energy Innovation: The Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $3.6 million to 18 groups and organizations through the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize — a first-of-its-kind competition designed to support entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underserved in federal climate and energy technology funding. The selected projects are helping develop the next wave of diverse clean energy business owners, executives, and workforce that are creating bottom-up solutions for sustainable development. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize supports the Biden-Harris Administration's Justice40 Initiative to put environmental and economic justice at the center of America's transition to a net-zero economy by 2050. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize encouraged applications from innovators who had never applied for federal funding, and at least 80 percent of submissions were from first-time applicants to DOE funding opportunities.

Wednesday

  • Addressed Legacy Pollution Through Good Paying Jobs on Public Lands: The Department of the Interior announced a $33 million investment through President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to put people to work plugging, remediating, and reclaiming orphaned oil and gas wells in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and on other public lands. Four bureaus within the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture will address 277 high-priority polluting wells that pose threats to human health and safety, the climate, and wildlife. Wednesday's allocation is part of a total of $250 million provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for cleaning up orphaned wells and well sites on federal public lands, national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests. Funding will be distributed to four agencies for work in California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

The agencies have prioritized wells that impact disadvantaged communities in keeping with the Administration's Justice40 Initiative to deliver 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.
Thursday

  • Tackling Polluted Brownfield Sites: After announcing a historic $254 million in Brownfields investments thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA held events in communities receiving this critical funding. Approximately 86 percent of the communities receiving Brownfields funding are in historically underserved areas. EPA Region 8 Administrator KC Becker met with partners to celebrate a new $500,000 grant to the City and County of Denver, Colorado to advance environmental cleanups along Federal Boulevard in the cities of Denver and Sheridan. EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman presented the Pioneer Bay Community Development Corporation with Brownfield program and Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving grants to help advance environmental justice, spur economic revitalization, and create jobs by addressing contaminated, polluted, or hazardous Brownfield properties in the Port St. Joe community.
  • Announced Investments in Affordable Housing and Community Development: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Thursday announced 83 awards totaling $147 million for affordable housing and community development projects that primarily benefit people with low and moderate incomes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. HUD awarded $95 million to 24 communities through the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Competitive Program to help Tribes develop affordable housing. Grant funds may be used for new construction, rehabilitation, and infrastructure to support affordable housing on Indian reservations and in other Indian areas. View the list of awardees here.
  • Announced Investments in Transit Planning that Addresses Climate Change and Equity: The Department of Transportation announced the availability of approximately $13 million in competitive grant funds through the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning. TOD looks at the relationship among transit, housing, and land use, and recognizes that better planning can help reduce costs for American families and reduce the impacts of transportation on climate and air quality. The existing Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning supports comprehensive or site-specific planning projects that improve economic development and ridership, foster multimodal connectivity and accessibility, improve transit access for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, engage the private sector, identify infrastructure needs, and enable mixed-use development near transit stations. This year's program will support comprehensive or site-specific planning efforts that support President Biden's call to lower costs for American families, combat climate change, and promote equitable delivery of benefits to underserved communities. Special consideration will be given to applications that improve air quality, advance environmental justice, and promote housing affordability.

Here is what they are saying on the Justice40 Week of Action:

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Oregon Governor Kate Brown: "President Biden is committed to advancing environmental and economic justice, including opening up opportunities for marginalized and overburdened communities. That is why, President Biden launched the Justice40 Initiative his first week in office and committed to direct 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean energy investments in disadvantaged communities. States have an important role to play in the allocation of Federal formula funding. Today, the Biden Administration and Connecticut, New Mexico, and Oregon Governors are jointly committing to prioritize disadvantaged communities when allocating Federal formula funding." [Statement, 5/27/22]

Senate Environmental Justice Caucus (EJC): "At the core of our nation's environmental laws is a commitment to ensuring that all communities have a seat at the table. While our nation's record of protecting our most vulnerable from the impacts of pollution and climate change is not perfect, we are grateful for the Biden-Harris Administration's efforts to engage with stakeholders from environmental justice communities. Today's report from CEQ demonstrates a clear commitment to considering the perspectives and priorities of those most impacted by our environmental policies. The report also presents a clear path forward for improving the way we deliver resources to those with the greatest need — a testimony to the power of inclusion in the federal decision-making process." [Statement, 5/24/22]

Delaware Senator Tom Carper, Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works: "Prioritizing environmental justice means providing all communities with a seat at the table. It's clear that @POTUS and his administration are committed to engaging with stakeholders as part of #Justice40 — something I appreciate as a co-chair of @EJusticeCaucus." [Tweet, 5/24/22]

Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth: "As a founding co-chair of the Senate's first-ever @EJusticeCaucus, I'm proud @POTUS's admin has made environmental justice a real priority. This week will highlight historic EJ initiatives—from Justice40 to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we're making progress at long last." [Tweet, 5/24/22]

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: "Here's some good news - the Biden administration's Justice40 Initiative is making progress. That means: - Replacing polluting diesel school buses - Creating public transit hubs - Removing barriers to employment in the green workforce. Read the rest here – more to do, but this part is moving in the right direction." [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Virginia Congressman A. Donald McEachin: "The Justice40 Initiative represents a historic commitment to advancing environmental justice, combatting long-standing inequities, and ensuring a healthier environment for every American, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status. The Biden-Harris administration has made important strides in supporting historically marginalized and disadvantaged communities across the United States. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Environmental Protection Agency announced $500 million in federal funding to aid in the electrification of our nation's school bus fleet. The White House's Office of Management and Budget also announced nearly $30 billion in funding opportunities has been made available to communities in the United States. These announcements demonstrate the importance of strong executive leadership and collaboration with the Congress, and we will continue working to expand additional resources. While we have made important progress delivering on the Justice40 Initiative and fighting to advance environmental justice, there is still much work to be done. We have a responsibility to continue engaging with impacted communities, consider their lived realities, and tailor our approaches to mitigate worst impacts of environmental injustice in our nation. I urge the Biden-Harris administration to continue its efforts and uphold its commitment to delivering direct investments to vulnerable environmental justice communities. I will continue engaging with the Biden-Harris administration, CEQ, and the EPA to ensure we are maximizing our ability to deliver on the Justice40 Initiative. Together, we will continue making strides to dismantle historic inequities. [Statement, 5/27/22]

Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal: "This is such great news and it's on top of over $29 billion in funding opportunities have already incorporated Justice40 considerations!" [Tweet, 5/24/22]

Anastasia Gordon, Energy and Transportation Policy Manager, and Lonnie "LJ" Portis, Environmental Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, WE ACT for Environmental Justice: "WE ACT for Environmental Justice has a long history of advocating for transportation policies, practices and investments that can deliver cleaner air, health improvements and economic justice in areas burdened by transportation pollution. Our Dirty Diesel Campaign led to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) purchasing and placing cleaner buses on routes serving Northern Manhattan and to the achievement of a 95 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions citywide. Most recently, we successfully advocated for passage of Local Law 120 of 2021, which requires school buses that serve New York City Public Schools to be all electric by 2035. The launch of the first iteration of the Clean School Bus Rebate Program is momentous. It is a step in the right direction to addressing past injustices and will protect millions of children in New York by reducing their exposure to climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants. Operating diesel school buses is detrimental to all children, and every community these buses travel through. But children of color are exposed to even more of this toxic pollution because buses are usually parked and often idling in their communities, adding to the cumulative impact of what is already significantly worse air quality. We look forward to working with the EPA to ensure that these frontline communities are prioritized." [Statement, 5/20/22]

Dana Johnson, Senior Director of Strategy and Federal Policy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice: "Overall, we are pleased to see a formal response" to the advisory council's recommendations, outlined in Monday's report to Congress. We appreciate having a new target date for the proposed update" of the Clinton-era executive order but "will have to wait for its presentation to determine if it reflects the thoughtfulness, and reaches the level of ambition" the president's environmental justice advisers called for." [Statement, 5/23/22]

Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy: "CEED is looking forward to the #Justice40 Week of Action as an important step to ensure real benefits reach communities on the frontlines across the country. #EnvironmentalJusticeForAll" [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Deep South Center for Environmental Justice: "Today, a report was released to Congress that details recommendations by WHEJAC, on which our founder, Dr. Beverly Wright, sits. We are proud that Federal agencies are acting on nearly 200 WHEJAC recommendations on the Justice40 Initiative." [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Equitable and Just National Climate Platform: "The White House has made important progress advancing the president's historic Justice40 Initiative and goal to deliver at least 40% of federal climate and infrastructure investment benefits to disadvantaged communities. Achieving the Justice40 goal would set the country on a long overdue course to correcting persistent injustice by mobilizing substantial new investments in legacy pollution cleanup, pollution-free energy and transportation, workforce development, quality affordable housing, and critical clean water infrastructure in communities that need it the most. There is still much work to be done to ensure that the federal government effectively invests in communities historically left behind, including action from Congress to pass the stalled budget reconciliation bill with crucial investments to advance environmental justice priorities. Congress must act now to secure substantial, long-overdue and much-needed climate and environmental justice investments through budget reconciliation legislation. The Senate must urgently pass a comprehensive package of investments to address the climate crisis and environmental injustice. This package must support environmental and climate justice block grants and other programs to clean up pollution and create toxic-free communities, healthy ports, and climate-resilient communities and infrastructure. The administration must also advance strong policies and regulations to reduce pollution. This includes developing and implementing a strong cumulative impacts policy and a regulatory strategy with an intentional focus on pollution reduction in low-income and Tribal communities, and in communities of color to improve public health and create economic opportunities in disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and impacted by high levels of toxic air and water pollution. We welcome CEQ's Justice40 Week of Action to elevate and advance these important priorities, and engage with communities. A new series of Justice40 briefings, a new environmental justice website and a report responding to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council's recommendations on implementing Justice40 and strengthening federal actions to protect the environment and public health for all communities are important ways to keep communities aware and involved. Now is the time for the administration to double-down on its whole-of-government approach, in direct engagement with communities, to ensure the promise of the Justice40 Initiative is fully achieved in communities across the country. Intentional community outreach is essential to ensuring effective Justice40 implementation. We look forward to continued work from CEQ to ensure the website is updated to meet the real-time needs of our communities. CEQ's Justice40 briefings will also provide a way for communities around the country to engage in the Justice40 process alongside other stakeholders. Integrating community feedback on Justice40 programs and the CEJST must be an essential part of moving this initiative forward in an inclusive way. All agencies must be held accountable for delivering on this mandate. EJNCP members looks forward to continuing our work with CEQ to support the historic Justice40 Initiative." [Statement, 5/26/22]

GreenLatinos: "Latino/a/x communities bear the brunt of climate change's harms. The @WhiteHouse is working to ensure these communities receive at least 40% of the benefits of federal climate and justice investments. #EnvironmentalJusticeCantWait #Justice40 #ACTNow #ClimateCantWait" [Tweet, 5/25/22]

American Federation of Teachers: ".@POTUS created the #Justice40 Initiative to make good on his commitment to communities marginalized by decades of underinvestment. More than $29B has gone towards delivering these benefits- from electric school buses to safe drinking water & more." [Tweet, 5/24/22]

Adrianna Quintero, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Energy Foundation: "Discrimination, centuries of neglect, entrenched racial injustice, and the very real consequences of climate change in the form of natural disasters and extreme weather events, have left millions of low-income, frontline, and Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) communities hurting. The historic impact of President Biden's Justice40 commitment could mark an important turning point in the long fight for justice. Climate philanthropy, and we at Energy Foundation, have a responsibility to be responsive and support groups to achieve not just the 40 percent marker, but also the shared decision-making and accountability that is necessary to achieve change. Justice40 is a big, ambitious effort—and implementing it properly will require groups on the ground be funded, and their leadership centered, in order to carry out the work required to engage with local, state, and regulatory agencies to make sure the money goes where it needs to go." [Statement, 5/23/22]

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE): "The @WhiteHouse's #Justice40 initiative is looking to fight climate change, reduce transportation + legacy pollution sources, improve water + air quality, expand clean energy, & create jobs in underserved communities most harmed by climate change. #EnvironmentalJusticeCantWait" [Tweet, 5/25/22]

Cathleen Kelly, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress: "The Biden-Harris Administration has made important progress in implementing its historic Justice40 Initiative and targeting long overdue investments to communities harmed by high levels of pollution and economic inequality. These investments are critical to improving the health and economic vitality of communities that have long borne the brunt of our nation's most toxic sources of pollution. From pollution clean-up and clean public transit to climate-resilient affordable housing and pollution-free energy, the Justice40 Initiative is key to addressing historic injustices in these neighborhoods, which are disproportionately communities of color. Despite this progress, the work is far from finished. The administration must fully engage with environmental justice communities and center their feedback as it continues to implement Justice40. Addressing decades of environmental injustice will require a whole-of-government approach and additional action. That includes offering technical support to local governments and community groups representing disadvantaged communities so they can successfully apply for federal grants. The administration also should simplify grant application processes to make federal funds more accessible and improve federal programs to maximize benefits to communities. And it's time for Congress to pass significant investments that spur immediate, meaningful action on climate and environmental justice at the scale of the problem." [Statement, 5/23/22]

Interfaith Power & Light: "Thank you, @POTUS for making Environmental Justice a priority! These historic investments in EJ will provide essential support and benefits to frontline communities across the country. Read more below! #Justice40" [Tweet, 5/25/22]

Jad Daley, President and CEO, American Forests: "@whceq we ? focus on #Justice40 Actions. The #TreeEquity movement is quickly moving into action, from Mayors to frontline leaders, so every neighborhood has ? as a heat shield & air filter. And we're keeping score. @AmericanForests @1t_org_US @WeAreSUFC" [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society: "Delighted to see the Biden administration sticking to their commitment to strengthen environmental justice with the #Justice40 Week of Action." [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE): "Today kicks off the #Justice40 Week of Action. Follow along throughout the week for events and announcements." [Tweet, 5/23/22]

National Ocean Protection Coalition: "Underserved communities bear the brunt of climate change's harms. The @WhiteHouse is working to ensure those communities receive at least 40% of the benefits of federal climate & justice investments. #EnvironmentalJusticeCantWait #Justice40" [Tweet, 5/25/22]

Union of Concerned Scientists Climate Campaign: "If we continue to listen to the voices and perspectives of the #WHEJAC and other #EnvironmentalJustice leaders and communities, we will deliver a cleaner, healthier future for all." - @BrendaMallory46 @WhiteHouse #justice40" [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm: "Environmental justice is top of mind for @POTUS and his administration. We're working around the clock to build a cleaner, brighter future for Americans in every pocket of the country. Stay tuned this week to see how @ENERGY's contributing to #Justice40" [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory: "Today, @WHCEQ released a report submitted to Congress, outlining the historic steps the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to implement recommendations from the first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). The WHEJAC was established under Executive Order 14008 to fulfill @POTUS and @VP's commitment to confronting longstanding environmental injustices and ensuring marginalized, underserved, and overburdened communities have greater input on Federal policies and decisions. Today's report is a formal response to recommendations the WHEJAC provided on the #Justice40 Initiative, the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), and revisions on Executive Order 12898. It also describes the scale and scope of efforts that the Federal Government has undertaken to deliver on the President's commitment to environmental justice. I am encouraged by the progress we have made over the past year. If we continue to listen to the voices and perspectives of the WHEJAC and other environmental justice leaders and communities, we will deliver a cleaner, healthier future for all." [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Erik Hooks, Deputy Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency: "We are excited about this opportunity to provide support at the earliest stages to communities, which may not have the capacity to start the application process on their own. FEMA looks forward to working with these communities to find solutions to make them more resilient and reduce the impacts of climate change." [Statement, 5/23/22]

White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy: "To kick off a #Justice40 Week of Action, we're announcing: -$29B in funding rollouts that have already incorporated Justice40 considerations -New report on responding to WHEJAC recommendations -Launch of a new Justice40 stakeholder engagement series" [Tweet, 5/23/22]

White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Associate Director for Climate, Energy, Environment, and Science Candace Vahlsing: "Stay tuned for more announcements this week from across the Administration on the White House Justice 40 Initiative. This week & beyond, Environmental Justice continues to be a top priority for this admin. You can find more info on our brand-new website: https://whitehouse.gov/environmentaljustice/!" [Tweet, 5/23/22]

Joseph R. Biden, Press Release - ICYMI: Biden-Harris Administration Organizes Justice40 Week of Action to Highlight Historic Environmental Justice Investments Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/356135

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