On Thursday, May 5th, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the U.S. Department of Justice is opening a new office aimed at addressing environmental justice. In a statement, Garland said that “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.” According to the American Lung Association, more than 40% of Americans, or 137 million people, are living in areas with failing grades for unhealthy levels of particle pollution and that people of color are more likely to live in those areas. The office, which will be titled the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), will follow the DOJ’s new comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy which involves prioritizing the enforcement of environmental laws and civil rights statutes and requiring that all U.S. attorneys across the country designate an environmental justice coordinator to identify areas of environmental justice concern within their districts. The Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) will be headed by Cynthia Ferguson, an Justice Department attorney who has worked on environmental justice issues for over a decade.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain why the establishment of the new Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is important.
- Debate: According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), climate change disproportionately impacts racial and ethnic minority communities. Do you believe that climate change is a racial justice issue?
- Poll: Communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and climate change. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss the U.S. Department of Justice’s comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy.
Cover Image: iStock/Petmal