WE ACT Responds to Biden Administration Climate Executive Orders




January 27, 2021
Contact: Dana Johnson, dana@weact.org, 773-495-1677


WASHINGTON, DC – Today President Biden signed a slate of climate and environmental justice focused executive orders and presidential memorandums to address the climate, COVID-19, economic and racial crises taking place in the U.S. WE ACT for Environmental Justice co-founder and executive Director, Peggy Shepard, provided the following response on the actions:

“It is a well-documented fact that the climate crisis is most deeply felt in environmental justice communities – places where people of color and those of low-income reside. We need bold actions and comprehensive plans that will address the legacy of environmental harms that persist in our indoor and outdoor environments, and contribute to poor health outcomes, economic instability, and climate fragility. This is our time to act and these executive orders and presidential memos demonstrate a commitment to deliver meaningful and measurable responses to the institutionalized ambivalence and systemic inequities that are prolonging the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, and exacerbating economic hardship and racial injustices.

I am pleased to see President Biden and Vice President Harris use the full authority of their offices to advance recommendations that we and others within the environmental justice movement have made including:

  • National Climate Task Force, White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, White House Environmental Justice Council and Office of Climate Change in the Department of Health & Human Services. Our communities needed to see this administration operationalize its commitment to achieving substantive climate and environmental justice goals. Establishing these internally and externally facing bodies, and having them work directly with President Biden and others within the White House, is critical to ensuring a whole of government response in delivering justice to our communities.
  • EPA EJ Enforcement Directive. I witnessed a disregard of Title VI administrative complaints and a lack of accountability and reporting on progress in addressing environmental degradation in our communities during my tenure as the first woman to Chair the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) to the Environmental Protection Agency. This directive is an important step in restoring and strengthening accountability, compliance and reporting within the EPA, and we look forward to working with Michael Regan when he is confirmed to lead the agency.
  • The creation of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization demonstrates a real commitment in not leaving our brothers and sisters in areas like the Appalachia and the Gulf South behind, many who have sacrificed their bodies and health to sustain their families for generations. The transition from this extractive fossil fuel economy must protect their pensions, provide training to new career paths, and respectfully empower these communities in a just and equitable way.
  • Justice 40: Today’s order delivers on President Biden’s commitment to direct 40 percent of benefits from climate investments into communities most impacted by the climate crisis. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration to move beyond words and to define what these investments can look like and to prioritize those who have been saddled with the most harm and are experts in generating solutions. In addition, we want to see the 40 percent invested in upscaling community-based worker training programs like our Solar Uptown Now initiative, which has given life changing credentials to underemployed residents. There are federal programs in place that have been underfunded for decades. This is our time to invest in those who will be most affected by shifts in the energy industry and who should be the first to access and experience the myriad benefits of a clean energy economy.

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram.

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