Peggy Shepard at the signing of Executive Order 12898: Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, flanked by EPA Administrator Michael Regan (left) and President Joe Biden (seated, right).

At the White House Signing (left to right): Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome, Senior Director for Environmental Justice at The White House Council on Environmental Quality (and former WE ACT staffer); Peggy Shepard; Dana Johnson; and Vernice Miller-Travis, Executive Vice President at the Metropolitan Group and WE ACT Co-Founder. Click image to download high-resolution version.

April 21, 2023
Media Contact: Catalina V. Silva, Humanity Communications Collective, catalina@humanitycom.com, 571-488-5020


WASHINGTON — WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a Harlem-based and nationally recognized nonprofit organization committed to bringing environmental injustices and associated mitigation to light, today praised the Biden administration’s announcement of Executive Order 12898: Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All.

“Today’s historic announcement addresses what WE ACT has been fighting for 35 years: environmental justice is central to civil rights and environmental laws,” said Dana Johnson, Senior Director of Strategy and Federal Policy for WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “The administration is implementing meaningful change to support the message we’ve known for decades: harmful pollution disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color, among other vulnerable communities. The updated Executive Order, building on the original Executive Order 12898 issued by President Clinton in 1994, will further embed environmental justice work in federal agencies to achieve real, measurable progress that low-income and communities of color can depend on.”

The EO contains a series of directives requiring all 438 federal agencies to make environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations. It also requires each federal agency to develop an agency-wide environmental justice strategy.

The EO also requires the following:

  • Establishes the White House Office of Environmental Justice at Council on Environmental Quality
  • The broadening of research data methodologies to include cumulative impacts and datasets to include more communities of color;
  • Additional public outreach and participation connected to federal agency actions;
  • New public notifications if toxic substances are released from federal facilities;
  • The establishment of an Environmental Justice Subcommittee within the National Science and Technology Council, led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

WE ACT previously gave the White House feedback on the need to augment existing public participation processes and also consider cumulative environmental impacts on communities.

“The Biden administration has issued an update of Executive Order 12898, adding to the President’s landmark work to create the Justice40 Initiative, the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, and the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC),” said Peggy Shepard, WHEJAC Co-Chair and Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Today, the foundation of the government’s environmental justice work has been updated to respond to recommendations made by the WHEJAC to further advance environmental and climate justice throughout the federal government. This is an important step forward as we see real investment in frontline communities.”

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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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


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