Biden-Harris administration establishes HHS Environmental Justice Office

The new office is under the purview of Biden's controversial Assistant Secretary for Health, Rachel Levine

Published: May 31, 2022 3:10pm

Updated: May 31, 2022 3:51pm

The Biden-Harris administration is creating an Office of Environmental Justice under the Department of Health and Human Services in order to "better protect the health of disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations on the frontlines of pollution and other environmental health issues."

"The blunt truth is that many communities across our nation – particularly low-income communities and communities of color – continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land use decisions, transportation, and trade corridors," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release Tuesday.

"Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention. That’s why HHS is establishing the Office of Environmental Justice," he wrote. 

The new office is under the purview of Admiral Rachel Levine, Biden's controversial assistant secretary for health. 

"Millions in the U.S. are at risk of poor health because they live, work, play, learn and grow in or near areas of excessive pollution and other environmental hazards. The Office of Environmental Justice is an important avenue through which their well-being and quality of life are receiving our full attention," Levine said.

The agency will be in charge of "Leading initiatives that integrate environmental justice into the HHS mission to improve health in disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations across the nation."

As HHS oversees 11 divisions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Justice Office will also develop and implement an agency-wide strategy on environmental justice.

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory commented: "By creating this new office and prioritizing environmental justice at HHS, Secretary Becerra is undertaking the type of bold institutional reform that is desperately needed to deliver clean air and clean water for all communities."

Americans are invited to provide input on the agency through the Federal Register until June 18.

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