Administrator Michael Regan, Remarks for Joint Press Conference with the Department of Justice, As Prepared for Delivery
May 5, 2022
Thank you, Attorney General, for hosting us here at the Department of Justice and for your exemplary leadership. I’m grateful to have your partnership in this most important mission.
Since stepping into my role as EPA Administrator, I’ve had the privilege to visit communities across our nation – communities of color and low-income communities, especially, that have been hurting for a long time.
In November, I traveled throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas as part of our Journey to Justice tour, so that I could see up close the injustices folks have been living with for decades.
The conditions I saw were deeply troubling. I’m talking about children going to school right next door to chemical plants, generations of family members diagnosed with cancer, likely connected to the pollution in the air they breathe or water they drink.
I’ve met with too many parents whose children have been poisoned by lead and whose lives have been turned upside down. Some of the conditions I’ve seen have been so shocking I’ve had to remind myself that I was still standing in the United States of America.
These systemic challenges have harmed vulnerable communities for decades, robbing them of the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
No child – no person – in this country should have to endure such egregious circumstances.
That’s why during his first week on the job, President Biden issued an Executive Order charging his Cabinet to take a whole-of-government approach to advancing environmental justice – so that all of us, from the DOJ to the EPA, work hand in hand to uplift overburdened communities. That’s why this new enforcement strategy is so significant.
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 wellbeing.
The Justice Department is one of EPA’s most critical partners in this mission, and I am thrilled to see the DOJ formally restore supplemental environmental projects.
These projects have been an important part of the EPA’s enforcement program for more than 30 years, but they were inexplicably revoked during the previous administration. Restoring the use of this powerful tool will advance the enforcement work EPA has been working hard to strengthen since President Biden took office.
As part of settlement negotiations, defendants can once again agree to undertake supplemental environmental projects that provide important health benefits for those affected by illegal activities. These projects can range from installing air filtration systems at schools in heavily industrialized areas to abating lead paint hazards in housing.
They can help deliver the kinds of health protections that marginalized communities, like those I met with on my Journey to Justice tour, have been demanding for years. This is such a significant resource that has the potential to change people’s lives, especially those who’ve historically suffered from exposure to multiple sources of pollution.
At the end of the day, our responsibility is to make people’s lives better – to ensure that all people, regardless of race, zip code, or the money in their pocket, are treated with fairness and dignity and respect. This action is an important part of delivering on that responsibility.
I look forward to working closely with the Attorney General and his team to protect vulnerable communities across this country and deliver long overdue justice.
I’ll now turn it over to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.