As part of President Obama's initiative to reinvigorate the federal commitment to environmental justice for minority and low-income communities, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced release of the Department of the Interior's Environmental Justice Strategic Plan 2012-2017.
The plan sets forth goals, strategies and measures that will enable the Department's bureaus and offices to work more effectively with disadvantaged communities to reduce environmental and health hazards. It outlines steps that the department will take to help protect communities facing disproportionate health and environmental risks.
"Every community deserves a healthy environment in which to live, learn, work, and play," Secretary Salazar said. "That requires strong, coordinated federal protection against pollution and other environmental health hazards. Environmental justice is achieved when communities have equal access to the federal decision-making process and those efforts and programs provide the same degree of protection provided to other populations.
The strategic plan represents a significant step forward in Interior's commitment to integrate environmental justice into its programs, policies, and activities. It will help Interior to better serve minority and low-income communities, including American Indian tribes, by assisting local efforts to recover from environmental, economic and public health impacts associated with abandoned coal mines and industrial pollution.
It also will increase the efforts of government agencies to identify and use federal resources to the benefit of environmentally and economically distressed communities; to participate in community revitalization and economic development initiatives; and to conduct community outreach and education projects.
Over the past few years Secretary Salazar has participated in several initiatives of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, including: the reconvening of the working group at the Cabinet level, a White House Forum on Environmental Justice, and the signing of an Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898 Memorandum of Understanding.
Secretary Salazar, along with other federal officials, signed the Environmental Justice MOU in August 2011, committing to reviewing and updating strategies and to preparing Annual Implementation Progress Reports.
Throughout 2011, representatives from Interior participated in several listening sessions across the country including the 2011 and 2012 listening sessions held during the Alaska Forum on the Environment.
More about Interior's Environmental Justice Strategic Plan and Implementation Progress Report can be found on the web site of the Office of the Secretary's Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance (OEPC): http://www.doi.gov/oepc/justice.html. This office provides direction and coordinates the development of environmental policy and program evaluation under the direction of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget Rhea Suh.