Notes as prepared for delivery
Thank you, U.S. Attorney Lowery, and good morning everyone.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke noted that this investigation builds on the Justice Department’s “response to ever-growing environmental justice issues.” Too often we find that the health of a person and their family depends on where they live. In the United States, your zip code is often a key determinant of your risk of cancer, your risk of lung or respiratory disease, and even your life expectancy. It is true that any of us could be exposed to environmental contamination, experience the aggravating effects of climate change, or be the victim of an environmental crime. But it’s also true that communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal communities bear these hardships disproportionately. They are also less likely to receive the services and support needed to address these harms.
President Biden has made environmental justice for all Americans a priority of his administration, and the Justice Department is answering the call. Our recent creation of the Office of Environmental Justice and a comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy affirms our deep commitment to pursuing equality before the law. This investigation illustrates the department’s commitment to alleviating the disproportionate environmental burdens too often borne by communities of color, low-income communities and tribal communities.
The Office of Environmental Justice, which the Attorney General unveiled in May, will coordinate environmental justice activities between components of the department and the offices of U.S. attorneys. He will participate in interagency environmental justice efforts with federal, state, local, and tribal partners in the department. The office will facilitate greater departmental engagement with overburdened and underserved communities. And he will also work with the recently convened Environmental Justice Enforcement Steering Committee to increase department-wide awareness of our environmental justice initiatives and encourage other departmental components to bring their unique authorities to bear in the fight. for environmental justice, as the Civil Rights Division has done. done with this survey.
The office and steering committee will also play a leadership role in the ministry’s overall environmental justice enforcement strategy. As part of the strategy, the Department of Justice will prioritize cases that reduce public health and environmental problems in overburdened and underserved communities. We will use every tool available to address environmental injustices, including, for example, the authority of the Civil Rights Division to investigate possible Title VI violations, such as the investigation announced today. As we go, we will engage meaningfully with affected communities by meeting them where they are, ensuring language access, building trust and listening to their concerns, and ensuring that the remedy we we seek in our law enforcement cases truly addresses the harms they face. Throughout, we are committed to being transparent about our environmental justice efforts, as well as our results.
As our colleagues in the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas conduct this investigation, we at the Environment and Natural Resources Division are proud to support them. The Department of Justice was founded in the aftermath of the Civil War to help protect civil rights and fight for equal justice under the law. We look forward to honoring this proud tradition as we advance the cause of environmental justice.