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The Department of Justice announced the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice that will serve as a “hub” for the department’s efforts to advance its “comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy.”
The new office within the Justice Department was announced Thursday by Attorney General Merrick Garland and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, along with a ‘series of actions’ that will be taken to “ensure environmental justice for all Americans”.
One of the goals of the new Office of Environmental Justice is to work with the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal investigative agencies to “develop or improve investigative agency protocols for assessing impacts environmental justice during investigations”.
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As part of the series of actions announced Thursday, each U.S. Attorney’s office is tasked with designating an environmental justice coordinator within their office, who will then identify “areas of environmental justice concern” in areas within their office. district. The Environmental Justice Coordinator will also be responsible for creating and publicizing a procedure for individuals to report environmental justice concerns.
U.S. prosecutors and other parts of the Justice Department are also being encouraged under the plan to create “environmental enforcement task forces” that can be used as a tool to prosecute environmental issues. enforcement of environmental justice, according to the series of actions announced.
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Garland said the new Office of Environmental Justice “will prioritize cases that will have the greatest impact on the communities most burdened by environmental harm.”
“While violations of our environmental laws can occur anywhere, communities of color, Indigenous communities and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the damage caused by environmental crime, pollution and climate change” , said Garland. “For too long, these communities have faced barriers to accessing the justice they deserve. The Office of Environmental Justice will serve as a hub for our efforts to advance our overall justice enforcement strategy. We will prioritize cases that will have the greatest impact on the communities most burdened by environmental damage.”
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The Department of Justice also announced an Interim Final Rule that will resume the use of Supplemental Environmental Projects that may be used in cases where communities are impacted by violations of federal environmental laws, which “will allow the government to ‘more fully compensate victims, repair harm, and punish and deter future violations.’