The Department of Justice has announced the creation of a new office devoted to prosecuting climate change and pollution laws.
The announcement came at a press conference held by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who used the opportunity to reiterate the Justice Department’s commitment to environmental justice.
CNN further reports:
The DOJ’s Office of Environmental Justice is part of the Biden administration’s strategy to prioritize environmental justice — specifically as it relates to the climate crisis — after the issue was largely ignored during the Trump administration.
Garland said the OEJ “will serve as the central hub for our efforts to advance our comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy,” with the office working alongside a number of other intradepartmental agencies, including the Civil Rights Division and United States Attorneys’ offices, to “prioritize meaningful and constructive engagement with the communities most affected by environmental crime and injustice.”
“In our environmental enforcement efforts, we will prioritize the cases that will have the greatest impact on the communities most overburdened by environmental harm,” he said, noting that “communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution and climate change.”
According to the American Lung Association, more than 40% of Americans live in areas with persistently unhealthy air quality, and people of color are disproportionately affected by it.
The new office will be headed by Cynthia Ferguson, an attorney working in the DOJ’s Environmental Enforcement Section of its Environment and Natural Resources Division.