Justice Dept. boosts focus on environmental cases that harm the poor

David Nakamura and Darryl Fears

This article by David Nakamura and Darryl Fears appeared in The Washington Post on May 5, 2022.

The Justice Department is ramping up enforcement of environmental cases that officials say disproportionately harm poor and marginalized communities, creating an office to help coordinate investigations and expanding the breadth of litigation against companies and local or state governments that appear to violate federal laws or commit civil infractions.

Appearing at a joint news conference Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland and EPA Administrator Michael Regan said their agencies would work together on the initiative. It aims to build on an executive order issued by President Biden days after his inauguration that called for an “all of government” approach to environmental justice.

Biden has pledged to make addressing these historical inequities central to his presidency, though many activists say he is yet to deliver on this promise. Some agencies, such as the Departments of Transportation and Health and Human Services, have strongly embraced the effort, while others lag behind.

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