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Biden Introduces New Federal Agency With Massive New Climate Authority

President Joe Biden will sign an executive order establishing the Office of Environmental Justice, which will dramatically increase the scope of the administration’s initiatives in that space, the White House announced Friday morning.

The new executive order directs federal agencies to consider the “disproportionate and adverse” impacts of climate change on minority and low-income communities, as opposed to “disproportionately high and adverse” impacts mentioned in a previous executive order, according to a White House fact sheet. This Biden administration hopes that this will prevent any “misunderstanding” that agencies should focus on only “large disproportionate effects,” expanding the scope of federal agency’s climate obligations to include any disparate climate impacts on minority and low-income communities.

“With this action, the President is working to ensure that all people – regardless of race, background, income, ability, Tribal affiliation, or zip code – can benefit from the vital safeguards enshrined in our nation’s foundational environmental and civil rights laws,” the White House said in a statement. “That means cleaner air and water, reduced risk for asthma, cancer, and other health burdens, and better access to green space, safe and affordable housing, and clean transportation.”

The executive order will also expand the programs covered by the president’s Justice40 Initiative — which directs 40% of all funds from certain federal projects to communities that are “marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution” — and make environmental justice a “duty” that all executive agencies must consider.

The White House also announced that the Office of Management and Budget will begin publishing an Environmental Justice Scorecard, to track federal agency’s efforts on environmental justice initiatives. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts on Thursday reintroduced their Green New Deal, alongside an affiliated health-focused package, partly in a bid to pressure the Biden administration and other Democrats to focus on inequality as part of its climate change agenda.

The executive order comes just one day after the president pledged $1 billion in support for the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund, which invests in green technology, particularly in developing nations. Biden is expected to use the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden, scheduled for Friday afternoon, to attack Republicans for taking an extremist stance on fossil fuels that jeopardizes public health, according to The New York Times, citing a senior administration official.

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