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DOJ Announces New Office Focusing on Climate Crisis

DOJ Announces New Office Focusing on Climate Crisis

There’s now a 50/50 chance that the world will surpass a critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming in the next five years, a new World Meteorological Organization report shows, warning of heating that could have devastating impacts on systems like coral reefs as well as Arctic ice. Inaction now would lead to catastrophic results, the WMO warned.

The United States was quick to respond to the impending climate crisis, as Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday that the Justice Department will be opening a new office aimed at addressing the department’s environmental justice efforts.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]
The DOJ’s Office of Environmental Justice, or OEJ,  is part of the Biden administration’s strategy to prioritize environmental justice specifically as it relates to the climate crisis. The issue was largely ignored during the Trump administration. Garland said the OEJ “will serve as the central hub for our efforts to advance our comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy,” with the office working alongside a number of other intradepartmental agencies, including the Civil Rights Division and United States Attorneys’ offices, to “prioritize meaningful and constructive engagement with the communities most affected by environmental crime and injustice.”

AG Garland also said his department is “working to restore its ability to use an enforcement tool” that was eliminated under the previous administration. The so-called supplemental environmental projects are used as part of settlement agreements in cases where federal environmental laws were violated to compensate victims and remedy the harm caused by the violations. “Because these projects bring environmental and public health benefits to the communities most directly affected by the underlying violations, they are particularly powerful tools for advancing environmental justice,” AG Garland said.

Speaking alongside the attorney general, EPA Administrator Michael Regan also stressed the importance of the department’s ability to use the projects in cases, saying: “Communities, particularly those with environmental justice concerns, deserve the assurance that their government will take vigorous enforcement action when polluters flout the law and jeopardize their well-being.”

 

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