New White House Initiatives Enhance Environmental Justice

By prioritizing equitable access to clean air and water and a healthy environment for all communities, the administration is paving the way for a more sustainable and just future.

Caleb Raspler


On April 21, 2023, President Biden signed an Executive Order, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, to enhance environmental justice efforts nationwide. Specifically, the measure utilizes the resources and expertise of federal agencies to help ensure everyone has the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy community.

“ASLA applauds the Biden-Harris administration's commitment to environmental justice. By prioritizing equitable access to clean air and water and a healthy environment for all communities, the administration is paving the way for a more sustainable and just future. ASLA supports these efforts and will continue to work towards creating a more inclusive and environmentally just nation,” wrote Torey Carter-Conneen, CEO, American Society of Landscape Architects.

As outlined in the White House fact sheet, some actions this order takes to enhance environmental justice—while also mitigating harmful climate and biodiversity impacts—include:

Directing all federal agencies to incorporate equity as a core issue in their missions and affirming environmental justice central to civil rights and environmental laws.

Improving protections for overburdened, underserved communities from environmental harm. Specifically, this order directs agencies to address disproportionate and adverse effects on communities by focusing on cumulative impacts like pollution and climate change. Additionally, this order requires agencies to inform communities of toxic substances released by a federal facility and hold public meetings to share ongoing information.

Calling on federal agencies to actively facilitate meaningful public engagement with communities to confront existing and legacy barriers and injustices that historically prevented them from having a voice in federal decision-making.

Establishing two new White House initiatives—the Environmental Justice Subcommittee within the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the White House Office of Environmental Justice within the Council on Environmental Quality. Specifically, the Subcommittee will promote the latest science, data, and research related to environmental justice and make information on environmental and health concerns more publicly accessible to communities. The Office of Environmental Justice will address current and historic environmental injustice by coordinating the implementation of related policies across the federal government.

In addition to the Executive Order, the Biden-Harris administration announced new steps to further increase environmental justice efforts. For example, the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality created and recently published an Environmental Justice Scoreboard that tracks federal agencies’ progress to secure environmental justice. Additionally, the administration reshaped its Justice40 Initiative—a goal to provide underserved communities 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments for projects relating to climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and the development of critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure—such that nearly 470 programs across 19 federal agencies are covered.

Read more on the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to advance environmental justice here.

ASLA believes all advocacy efforts must include a push for equity and environmental justice. All too often underserved communities are ignored during the planning stages of projects and disproportionately suffer adverse environmental and health consequences. Landscape architects know the importance of community engagement and that communities most affected by a project should be heard and understood.


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