Last week, President Biden signed an executive order to expand his administration’s environmental justice goals, including ensuring clean air and water for communities around the country.
The newly signed Executive Order, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, focuses on communities most affected by pollution, including Tribal communities. The Order directs all federal agencies to develop environmental justice strategies and to alleviate disproportionate harm to minority and low-income populations.
Vi Waghiyi, environmental, health and justice director for Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), stated: “While this Executive Order is significant, we must ensure that its promise for the health and well-being of our communities is achieved and that these are not just empty words. I am committed to being a strong voice for Alaska and Arctic and Indigenous peoples. I do this work to protect our future generations. I work to protect the Sivuqaq Yupik people and to ensure that our cultures and traditions will continue.”
Vi serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) alongside other environmental advocates and community leaders. The Council made recommendations for specific directives in the executive order and provides oversight for the federal government’s efforts to address environmental injustices.
The order creates the first Environmental Justice Scorecard that establishes a baseline for tracking progress of federal efforts through all federal agencies. The Scorecard incorporates recommendations from the WHEJAC and feedback from the public, environmental justice advocates and experts. The Biden Executive Order builds on the original Executive Order 12898 issued by President Clinton in 1994 and addresses environmental injustices experienced by low-income and communities of color.