Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Joe Manchin, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden

President Joe Biden, center, hands the pen used to sign the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 into law to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the White House on August 16, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

EPA's Environmental Justice Office 'Won't Make Up for' Manchin Deal, Campaigner Says

"We've seen a lot of structural changes on environmental justice in the Biden, Obama and Clinton administrations, but we need to see the results," said Wes Gobar of the Movement for Black Lives.

Julia Conley

Climate campaigners and other progressives on Sunday praised the Biden administration's announcement that it is establishing a new environmental justice office at the Environmental Protection Agency—but at least one critic noted that the office's work will not cancel out the damage done by the so-called "permitting reform" bill being pushed by Sen. Joe Manchin.

"We've seen a lot of structural changes on environmental justice in the Biden, Obama and Clinton administrations, but we need to see the results," Wes Gobar, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives, told The New York Times.

According to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR) will invest heavily in ensuring residents of areas plagued by decades of industrial pollution live in a healthier environment.

With about 200 staffers and a director who will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the office will oversee the distribution of billions of dollars included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for monitoring air quality near schools and impacted neighborhoods and cleaning up pollution in those areas. The OEJECR will also have a budget of $100 million.

Communities that could benefit from the funds include those in so-called "Cancer Alley," between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana, where chemical plants stand near residential neighborhoods and cancer prevalence is 44% higher than the national rate in some areas.

Areas affected by redlining, where largely Black, Latino, and low-income neighborhoods were targeted for development by pollution-causing industries, may also benefit. One 2017 study found that Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as white people to die from exposure to pollution.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) issued a round of applause on Twitter following Regan's announcement.

"This is a big step to act on climate in our most vulnerable communities," said environmental legal advocacy group Earthjustice.

But Gobar noted that Regan's announcement came as Manchin seeks to pass his energy infrastructure bill, which would make it easier for fossil fuel companies to complete projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and the right-wing Democratic senator's home state of West Virginia.

The White House said last week that President Joe Biden is "committed to the deal" between Manchin and party leaders which resulted in the bill in exchange for Manchin's support of the IRA.

"This deal exchanges the health of Black lives across the country in exchange for fossil fuel profits," Gobar told the Times. "And [the OEJECR] won't make up for this side deal—for cutting the federal government's ability to protect Black communities."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Citing 'Unprecedented Crisis,' House Dems Push Biden to Protect Haitians From Deportation

Warning of "mortal danger," one advocacy group argues extending and redesignating Temporary Protected Status for Haitians "is a matter of life and death."

Jessica Corbett ·

Experts Warn 'Doomsday Scenario' for Colorado River Basin Possible in 2023

"The problem with massive projects like Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam," said one climate journalist, "is they were engineered for a climate that no longer exists."

Julia Conley ·

Starbucks Violated Law and Must Bargain With Union in Seattle: NLRB

The coffee giant, which plans to appeal, "is continuing its aggressive anti-union campaign against workers by delaying, confusing, and flat-out refusing to bargain with them," said Starbucks Workers United.

Jessica Corbett ·

Three UK Universities Ban Fossil Fuel Industry Recruiters From Campus

"It is vital that our universities show with actions, not words, that they are taking the side of climate justice, and not of the industries driving us deeper into a climate crisis," said one campaigner.

Julia Conley ·

Lula Aims to Create New Federal Police Unit to Curb Environmental Crimes in Brazil

"Reverting the destruction from the past administration and taking meaningful action to protect the Amazon and the climate must be a priority of the new government," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo