USA - What Does Biden's Executive Order on Environmental Justice Mean for Frontline Communities?
As President Biden officially announces his reelection bid for 2024, we look at his recent executive order establishing a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House and requiring all federal agencies to weigh the environmental impact of policies on marginalized communities.
Environmental groups welcomed the announcement but cautioned that Biden remains a major supporter of fossil fuels, including the controversial Willow project in Alaska, and that he has approved drilling projects on federal land faster than Trump did during his first two years in office. For more, we speak with Jade Begay, director of policy and advocacy at the NDN Collective. She is on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and joins us today in a personal capacity.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
In addition to announcing his bid for reelection in 2024 today, President Biden has signed an executive order establishing an Office of Environmental Justice within the White House. Biden unveiled his plan at a ceremony in the Rose Garden Friday just ahead of Earth Day.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Environmental justice will be the mission of the entire government, woven directly into how we work with state, local, tribal and territorial governments. This is an order that directs the federal agencies to address gaps in science and technology. For example, there’s a lot we still don’t know about the quality of people’s wastewater or the air they’re breathing.
AMY GOODMAN: Environmental groups welcomed the announcement but cautioned Biden remains a major supporter of fossil fuels, having approved drilling projects on federal land faster than Trump did during his first two years in office.
For more, we’re joined in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Roundhouse. That’s where the New Mexico Legislature is housed. We’re joined by Jade Begay, director of policy and advocacy at the NDN Collective. She’s on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She’s speaking to us today in her personal capacity, a citizen of Tesuque Pueblo and also Diné and Southern Ute.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Jade. Can you talk about this office that has been set up? And if you could comment on President Biden announcing his campaign for reelection today?
JADE BEGAY: Yeah. Good morning, Amy. Great to be here.
Well, this entire executive order is really exciting. I’m really excited about what it means for our tribes and moving us from an era of consultation to an era of consent. I’m excited about what this means for strengthening our regulatory processes, which have impacts on the projects that you mentioned, the harmful projects that we’re seeing approved. Hopefully, with this order, we’ll see the regulatory process mean more justice for our communities.
As far as the office, you know, we’re excited that that is happening. It’s never — that’s never been done before, and it signals to us that environmental justice is not just a program or not just a proclamation. There’s going to be real people working on this, day in, day out, in the White House, making sure that there’s accountability, making sure that there’s transparency, and making sure that there’s real teeth to this executive order.
As far as the announcement around the reelection bid, I just — I feel excited to motivate the people I work with, because, really, we know what’s at stake. And I think, as far as my own personal opinions go, there’s one option here.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And does this executive order, from what you can tell, have any real or strong enforcement mechanisms? And how would it, for instance, affect the exposures to toxins in tribal communities where you are, in the Rio Grande Basin?
JADE BEGAY: Yeah. So, it definitely does. I kind of want to broaden out. So, you know, projects — as Amy mentioned, there have been harmful projects approved by this administration. And I think a couple things can be true at one time. Yes, those actions have been taken. Also, the administration just took the strongest action it can take to embed environmental justice into the DNA of the entire federal government.