Advancing Environmental Justice

Centering justice, equity and inclusion in our work 

Sec Haaland with Children at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge

“From climate adaptation and the promise of clean energy to legacy pollution clean-up and clean water infrastructure, it is imperative that the Biden-Harris administration’s significant investments benefit historically disadvantaged communities, who for too long have borne the brunt of the climate crisis.” – Secretary Deb Haaland 

Communities of color, rural and Indigenous communities, low-income families, and people in the U.S. territories have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from the climate crisis, from air and water pollution to environmental hazards left behind at toxic sites.    

As we acknowledge that reality, the Biden-Harris administration has mobilized an all-of-government approach to advance environmental justice. As directed in Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the Department of the Interior has partnered with agencies  across the federal government to develop a strategy to address current and historic environmental injustices and ensure accountability.  

The Department is in a new era as we develop programs, policies and activities that address long-standing environmental injustices and ensure that historically marginalized communities have greater input on and receive enhanced benefits from federal policies and decisions. Some efforts include: 

  • Advancing the Justice40 initiative: The Biden-Harris administration’s Justice40 Initiative aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, and related investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, overburdened and underserved. The Department of the Interior has 65 programs and ten bureaus working directly with local communities to advance our commitment to environmental justice.  
  • Making America’s public lands and waters more accessible and inclusive: We must ensure that everyone, no matter their background or zip code, can enjoy the benefits of green spaces and the outdoors. Programs like the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program and Urban National Wildlife Refuges help increase equitable access to the outdoors, particularly in urban communities. 
  • Cleaning up legacy pollution: Legacy pollution caused by environmental hazards like abandoned mines and orphaned oil and gas wells have impacted Black, Brown, Indigenous, and rural communities for generations. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes a historic $16 billion investment to plug orphan wells and reclaim abandoned mine lands, which will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental conditions and pollution while creating good-paying union jobs. 
  • Fighting the climate crisis: Urgent action on the climate crisis includes creating a more equitable and sustainable future. Every community faces the devastation caused by extreme weather events, but communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities face disproportionate impacts. As part of our efforts to advance a clean energy future, all new renewable energy projects must engage with Tribes and underserved communities. 

The Department of the Interior will continue to play a central role in how the United States stewards its public lands, increases environmental protections, pursues environmental justice, and honors our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes.  

We have no time to waste in taking action to protect public lands, the environment, and Americans’ lives and futures. Interior will continue to take the bold action desperately needed to ensure all communities — including communities of color and urban, rural, and Indigenous communities — benefit from an aggressive and whole-of-government response to advancing environmental justice. 

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