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Biden signs executive order that aims to advance environmental justice

The order will establish the Office of Environmental Justice at the White House to coordinate the administration’s efforts.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday in an effort to expand on his administration's environmental justice goals, such as delivering clean air and water to communities nationwide, as he nears an expected announcement for his re-election campaign.

"We vowed to take action on the most ambitious climate environmental justice agenda in American history and that’s exactly what we did," Biden said from the White House Rose Garden in the afternoon.

"This is about people’s health. It’s about the health of our communities," Biden added. He then quipped: "It’s only about the future of our planet."

Joined by environmental advocates and community leaders, Biden went through the climate order, which, according to the White House, focuses on communities that are most affected by pollution. It will establish the Office of Environmental Justice at the White House to coordinate the administration’s efforts to implement the new directives.

Biden’s action will also require agencies to notify nearby communities about releases of toxic substances from federal facilities and will direct the agencies to engage with U.S. communities, including those on tribal lands.

President Biden Convenes Virtual Meeting Of Major Economies-Forum On Energy And Climate
President Biden during a virtual meeting on Energy and Climate at the White House on April 20, 2023.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Biden’s press secretary said the climate order highlights the president's commitment to those who helped elect him in 2020, calling it “a continuation of what he’s promised the American people.”

“One way that you can look at this today is that he’s continuing to deliver on that ambitious agenda,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday. “And he’s not done yet.”

The president is preparing to make his intention to seek a second term official next week, with the expected re-election announcement coming as soon as Tuesday, sources have told NBC News.

Under the order, federal agencies will also be tasked with conducting new assessments of their environmental justice efforts, the White House said, which will be made public through a new score card to help measure the government's progress on the issue.

“For far too long, communities across our country have faced persistent environmental injustice through toxic pollution, underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services, and other disproportionate environmental harms often due to a legacy of racial discrimination including redlining,” the White House said, detailing the executive order. “These communities with environmental justice concerns face even greater burdens due to climate change,”

The president wants to ensure that Americans — regardless of their race or backgrounds, incomes, or places of residence — benefit from “cleaner air and water, reduced risk for asthma, cancer, and other health burdens, and better access to green space, safe and affordable housing, and clean transportation,” the White House said.

In his remarks Friday, Biden swiped at "MAGA Republicans" and GOP lawmakers, saying they would “rather threaten to default on the U.S. economy” than allow the climate provisions signed into law with the Inflation Reduction Act to be rolled out.

A White House official previewing the speech said Biden's agenda "stands in stark contrast to the dangerous vision Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy and his extreme caucus have for our planet, our economy, and public health."

The official said the House Republicans' recently passed energy measure that seeks to undo almost all of Biden's climate change agenda "would be a climate and health disaster that President Biden won’t allow on his watch."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called that bill “dead on arrival.”

As part of the administration's push, Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Florida on Friday to announce new investments to strengthen coastal resilience to the effects of climate change and extreme storms, the official said.