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President Obama’s Proclamation on Environmental Justice

2014 February 25

By Lisa Garcia

Earlier this month I was very excited to share President Barack Obama’s official Presidential Proclamation commemorating February 11, 2014, as the 20th Anniversary of Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. While this may seem purely symbolic, the proclamation is much  more than a symbolic gesture.  It is a very visible statement from the White House firmly re-committing this Administration’s dedication to making sure that we, “live up to the promise that here in America, no matter who you are or where you come from, you can pursue your dreams in a safe and just environment.”  This commitment has been echoed throughout EPA and other agencies, and indeed the entire country during this anniversary month.

As a federal employee, I understand the important role the federal government plays in advancing environmental justice, but I also believe that the only path to a healthier and more resilient country is through the hard work and leadership of communities and individuals. This reaffirmation by the President  sets the stage for all of the U.S., states, and tribal governments to continue to work together, side-by-side, to ensure that we continue to deliver on the letter and spirit of the executive order signed 20 years ago this month.



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downloadTwo decades ago, President William J. Clinton directed the Federal Government to tackle a long-overlooked problem. Low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and tribal areas disproportionately bore environmental burdens like contamination from industrial plants or landfills and indoor air pollution from poor housing conditions. These hazards worsen health disparities and reduce opportunity for residents — children who miss school due to complications of asthma, adults who struggle with medical bills. Executive Order 12898 affirmed every American’s right to breathe freely, drink clean water, and live on uncontaminated land. Today, as America marks 20 years of action, we renew our commitment to environmental justice for all.

Because we all deserve the chance to live, learn, and work in healthy communities, my Administration is fighting to restore environments in our country’s hardest-hit places. After over a decade of inaction, we reconvened an Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group and invited more than 100 environmental justice leaders to a White House forum. Alongside tribal governments, we are working to reduce pollution on their lands. And to build a healthier environment for every American, we established the first-ever national limits for mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants.

While the past two decades have seen great progress, much work remains. In the years to come, we will continue to work with States, tribes, and local leaders to identify, aid, and empower areas most strained by pollution. By effectively implementing environmental laws, we can improve quality of life and expand economic opportunity in overburdened communities. And recognizing these same communities may suffer disproportionately due to climate change, we must cut carbon emissions, develop more homegrown clean energy, and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that we are already feeling across our country.

As we mark this day, we recall the activists who took on environmental challenges long before the Federal Government acknowledged their needs. We remember how Americans — young and old, on college campuses and in courtrooms, in our neighborhoods and through our places of worship — called on a Nation to pursue clean air, water, and land for all people. On this anniversary, let us move forward with the same unity, energy, and passion to live up to the promise that here in America, no matter who you are or where you come from, you can pursue your dreams in a safe and just environment.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 11, 2014, as the 20th Anniversary of Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs and activities that promote environmental justice and advance a healthy, sustainable future.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


About the author: Lisa Garcia is the Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice to Administrator Gina McCarthy

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Bradley S. Hayes permalink
    February 25, 2014

    God Bless you Mr President, you sir are a Beacon for this nation, and if their is ever any question that we walk together in this nation, they need only to look at a picture of the forty fourth President, our greatest HOPE, the Middle Class, is in you for Environmental Justice. Thank you for keeping eye on Ky, some would wonder why you would even care about this state, because of the lack of respect some of our elected officials have shown to the First African American President, I believe some men have a higher calling. Together we in America are a strong nation, but the middle class need a seat at the table.

  2. Jan Whitefoot permalink
    February 26, 2014

    Would like to see some EJ in the Yakima Valley, WA State, where 300,000 cows are more important than the health of the people to local officials. In 2008, EJ designated the Yakima Valley as a EJ Showcase, one of the top 10 most polluted places in America, then dropped the ball.
    We would like EJ here to assist us in the Yakima Valley.

  3. Marvin S. Robinson, II permalink
    February 26, 2014

    On behalf of the QUINDARO RUINS/Underground Railroad-Exercise 2014
    many words, sentences, paragraphs, studies of- STUDIES: statistical analysis reports on and of- REPORTS: have been conducted over and before these many years.
    The low-income and now NO-Income areas, that use to be neighborhoods and communities have endured and still suffer tremendous misery from TOXIC HAZARDOUS WASTE: and now they shipped the businesses and manufacturers overseas; or- out of the United States. And we, in Urban America are left with brunt ends of horrific POLLUTION in the water, ground and air; with violence and turmoil like never before.
    Life would be unimaginable without being able to PRAY and ask God for mercy and grace: and in a similar spectrum without having our ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE -E.P.A. professional staffers to call on about various problems, projects, questions, intervention possibilities would be inhumane. Thank God, for the Environmental Justice MOVEMENT, though many of our original senior / elder advisers have already crossed-over to other side of the twin mirror of LIFE.
    At least our beloved AMERICA is poised to re-grapple the environmental FUTURES with more civility and humanitarian conscience. And may God continue to BLESS our President, his family and our entire nation’s “GREENER TOMORROWS”.
    The Civil Rights Act of 1964, is perfect blend to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE Executive Order: because we have a CIVIL RIGHT to breathe AIR even if we’re poor and have quality clean WATER, not just because we AMERICANS, but because we are Human BEINGS, with souls- that are ALIVE-

    Thank you,
    Marvin S. Robinson, II
    Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad- Exercise 2014

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