The Department of Justice is establishing a new “Office of Environmental Justice.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland made the announcement at a press conference with EPA Administrator Michael Regan Thursday. Garland said that the new office, which will also be known by the initialism OEJ, would “oversee and help guide the Justice Department’s wide-ranging environmental justice efforts.”
The office was created as part of the Department’s “comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy,” in compliance with the Biden administration’s January 2021 executive order directing the Attorney General to develop such a strategy in conjunction with the EPA. Garland said that OEJ would initially be led by Acting Director Cynthia Ferguson, an attorney from the Environmental Enforcement Section of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“Although violations of our environmental laws can happen anywhere, communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and climate change,” Garland said in remarks at the conference. “In partnership with EPA, our new OEJ will serve as the central hub for our efforts to advance our comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy. In our environmental efforts, we will prioritize the cases that will have the greatest impact on the communities most overburdened by environmental harm. And together with our Civil Rights Division, Office for Access to Justice, Office of Tribal Justice, and United States Attorneys’ Offices, OEJ will prioritize meaningful and constructive engagement with the communities most affected by environmental crime and injustice.”