Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights and Environmental Justice

The Environmental Protection Agency is driven by a fundamental belief that everyone has a right to clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and healthy land to call our home. At the heart of that conviction is our unwavering pursuit of equality and environmental justice for all.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, EPA is celebrating with the theme Honoring Our Past, Embracing Our Present, and Building Our Future. I’m pleased to join with others to mark this enduring legacy as we work toward a more just future.

Fifty years ago today, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. EPA is committed to ensuring the equal application of environmental laws, so all communities can enjoy protection from environmental and health hazards, and have an equal opportunity for their voices to be heard.

Today I’m proud to highlight EPA’s efforts to advance and protect civil rights. Making a meaningful difference in communities is a priority for us at the agency. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice advocates for the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in developing, implementing and enforcing environmental laws, regulations and policies. Low-income neighborhoods, tribal populations, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to pollution, which becomes a barrier to economic opportunity and middle-class security – gaps in opportunity that President Obama calls a defining issue of our time. At the core of EPA’s mission is the unwavering pursuit of environmental justice – striving for clean air, water, and healthy land for every American.

Building a high-performing organization is another priority for us. Diversity is one of our nation’s greatest strengths, and by recruiting professionals with different work experiences, cultures, and geographical and educational backgrounds, we strengthen EPA’s ability to solve problems creatively. EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has made great strides in recruiting and hiring talented and diverse staff, as reflected by our recently established Office of Diversity, Advisory Committee Management and Outreach. A highly skilled, diverse and inclusive work force is critical for EPA to continue to carry out its mission.

To celebrate the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and EPA’s accomplishments since its passage, the Office of Civil Rights and Office of Diversity, Advisory Committee Management and Outreach is co-hosting Honoring Our Past, Embracing Our Present, and Building Our Future on July 21, 2014. The event will feature Presidential appointee Marlene Sallo, the fifteenth Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. We’re humbled today by the struggles of the past, and we’re called to strengthen our resolve to promote equality and environmental justice, now and in the future.

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