Press Release from EPA (09/22/10):

WASHINGTON – Today, for the first time in more than a decade, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Nancy Sutley, reconvened the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) in a meeting held at the White House. The meeting, attended by five cabinet members, demonstrates the Obama administration’s dedication to ensuring all Americans have strong federal protection from environmental and health hazards. Pollution like dirty air and contaminated water can have significant economic impacts on overburdened and low-income communities, driving away investment in new development and new jobs and exposing residents to potentially costly health threats. This historic gathering marks a recommitment to advancing the mandate of Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, which states that each agency, with the law as its guide, should make environmental justice part of its mission.

The role of the EJ IWG is to guide, support and enhance federal environmental justice and community-based activities. By coordinating the expertise and resources of federal government agencies, the EJ IWG will work to identify projects where federal collaboration can support the development of healthy and sustainable communities. The EJ IWG will also seek opportunities to provide green jobs training in communities in need and promote a clean energy economy.

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 the following federal agencies: 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.” Read the rest of this entry »