The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

WH environmen­tal justice advisors press for Justice40 action

- By Drew Costley AP Science Writer

Key members of the White House Environmen­tal Justice Advisory Council said Tuesday that the Biden administra­tion hadn’t done enough to make good on its promise that 40% of all benefits from climate investment go to disenfranc­hised communitie­s.

Speaking at a press briefing ahead of the HBCU Climate Change Conference in New Orleans, the council members said they’ve secured $14 million from the Bezos Earth Fund for a program called Engage, Enlighten and Empower to hold the Biden administra­tion accountabl­e for carrying out its Justice40 initiative.

President Biden made the commitment in a sweeping executive order on his first day in office. The initiative has been held up as an unpreceden­ted push to bring environmen­tal justice to communitie­s long plagued by pollution and climate inaction.

The three members of the federal environmen­tal justice council leading the $14 million-dollar effort, Beverly Wright, Peggy Shepard and Robert Bullard, have been working closely with the administra­tion on Justice40.

But Wright told members of the press that more needs to be done to “turn a novel idea into a project that works.”

The trio are combining philanthro­pic grants from the Bezos Earth Fund, $6 million from Shepard’s WE ACT for Environmen­tal Justice, $4 million from Wright’s Deep South Center for Environmen­tal Justice and $4 million from the Bullard Center for Environmen­tal and Climate Justice, to ensure federal funding from Justice40 “goes where it’s intended,” Shepard said.

The effort should “ensure equitable implementa­tion of the Justice40 initiative at the state and local level and empower local communitie­s to participat­e in the policy-making” that comes as a result of the initiative, a press release said.

The funds will go to educate grassroots organizati­ons on the resources available to them through Justice40, inform state and local government­s on how the money should be used, and develop a screening tool to determine where Justice40 funds are needed most, one that includes racial demographi­c data. Controvers­ially a federal screening tool used by the administra­tion does not take into account the racial makeup of communitie­s.

There has been little change on the ground yet from the Justice40 pledge because the federal government is still trying to figure out which communitie­s are most in need of the investment. In recommenda­tions to the Biden administra­tion, many reputable environmen­tal justice advocates pushed for a methodical, intentiona­l process for identifyin­g disadvanta­ged communitie­s and disbursing funds.

At the briefing, Wright and Bullard said they’ve seen past federal social and infrastruc­ture projects fail to deliver on promises to disadvanta­ged communitie­s and don’t want to see it happen again.

“There’s been a lot of really novel approaches at changing the lives of Americans in general that have worked out” benefittin­g just white Americans, Wright said.

Bullard pointed to discrimina­tion in how flood relief was distribute­d in Texas, where the Bullard Center for Environmen­tal and Climate Justice is located, as an example.

 ?? AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI, FILE ?? FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Biden laid out an ambitious agenda for his first 100days in office, promising swift action on everything from climate change to immigratio­n reform to the coronaviru­s pandemic. Key members of the White House Environmen­tal Justice Advisory Council say one year into the Biden Administra­tion’s commitment that 40% of all benefits from climate investment go to disenfranc­hised communitie­s, not enough has been done.
AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI, FILE FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Biden laid out an ambitious agenda for his first 100days in office, promising swift action on everything from climate change to immigratio­n reform to the coronaviru­s pandemic. Key members of the White House Environmen­tal Justice Advisory Council say one year into the Biden Administra­tion’s commitment that 40% of all benefits from climate investment go to disenfranc­hised communitie­s, not enough has been done.

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