HHS announces new office of environmental justice
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday announced an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) within the department to address climate-related health issues particularly affecting poor and marginalized Americans.
The office, which will be under the aegis of the HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, will be responsible for developing the department’s broader environmental health strategies and coordinating its annual environmental justice reports, according to HHS. The department is seeking public comment on its implementation plan for the new office through June 18.
“By creating this new office and prioritizing environmental justice at HHS, Secretary [Xavier] Becerra is undertaking the type of bold institutional reform that is desperately needed to deliver clean air and clean water for all communities,” White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a key step toward confronting environmental injustice – in all of its heartbreaking forms – with the full force and commitment of the Federal government.”
“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,” said Becerra. ”Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention. That’s why HHS is establishing the Office of Environmental Justice.”
Becerra announced the launch of the broader Office of Climate Change and Health Equity last August after a January executive order by President Biden laid the groundwork for its creation.
In the August announcement, Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine noted that the health sector comprises about 4.5 percent of global carbon emissions and 8.5 percent globally. In addition to finding ways to reduce this impact, the office has been tasked with strengthening resilience to address the health impacts of climate change.