Biden’s EPA Massively Stepped Up Its ‘Environmental Justice’ Agenda In 2023

(YouTube / Screenshot / Public — User: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Nick Pope Contributor
Font Size:
  • President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) significantly scaled up its enforcement and grantmaking activities related to environmental justice in 2023.
  • The EPA’s 2023 enforcement statistics show that the agency increased its inspections in areas of potential environmental justice concern and that the dollar amount of judicial and administrative penalties assessed in such areas also reached recent highs.
  • “EPA-funded researchers dredge reams of data to find a few trivial environmental differences between rich and poor communities and then blame the inconsequential differences on racism,” Steve Milloy, a senior legal fellow for the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute and a member of the Trump EPA transition team, told the DCNF.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intensified its “environmental justice” agenda in 2023 in terms of enforcement and grantmaking.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in May 2023 that the agency has “built environmental justice into [its] very DNA,” and over the course of the year the agency significantly increased enforcement in specific areas across the country, while handing out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to environmentalist groups to pursue environmental justice projects. These developments reflect a broader effort by the EPA and Biden administration to infuse social justice ideology into bureaucratic functions, and a strategy to build political patronage by funding activist organizations with taxpayer dollars, experts told the DCNF.

“From day one, President Biden and EPA have been committed to delivering progress on environmental justice and civil rights, and ensuring that underserved and overburdened communities are at the forefront of our work,” an EPA spokeswoman told the DCNF. “The agency is ensuring that people who’ve struggled to have their concerns addressed see action to solve the problems they’ve been facing for generations. These efforts to integrate EJ and equity into all of EPA’s work is seen through the work of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance in its enforcement of environmental laws.” (RELATED: Shortlist For EPA’s Multi-Billion Dollar ‘Green’ Fund Features Groups With Deep Connections To Biden Admin, Dems)

In fiscal year 2023, more than 60% of federal inspections occurred in areas of potential environmental justice concern, reflecting a significant increase in both the total number and relative proportion of civil enforcement case conclusions in such areas compared to years past, the EPA enforcement data shows.

The estimated amount of pollution — measured in pounds — reduced, treated or eliminated by the EPA in potential environmental justice concern areas was lower in fiscal year 2023 than in fiscal year 2021, according to the EPA enforcement data. The 41.18 million pounds that the EPA estimates it handled in such areas amounts to less than one-third of the 137.84 million pounds that the Trump EPA recorded in fiscal year 2019.

While the amount of pollution that the EPA estimates it reduced, treated or eliminated was not exceptionally high, the agency’s actions resulted in an estimated $69.15 million worth of administrative and judicial penalties assessed in areas of environmental justice concern in fiscal year 2023, a number that is far greater than any figure recorded since fiscal year 2014, according to the enforcement statistics.

The EPA asserts that environmental justice can only be achieved when “everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.”

The Biden administration “wants to say that pollution is racist, in the same way that they want to say education is racist,” Mandy Gunasekara, who served as EPA chief of staff during the Trump administration, told the DCNF. “They are using this as a political tool that is not supported by legal precedent … The problem with this administration is that they lack a balance in their mission; they just want to grab headlines, and to grab headlines you need extremes, and one of the easiest ways to do that is via environmental justice, as we have seen. It’s the ultimate weaponization of industrial action.”

The EPA’s environmental justice agenda is part of a broader push by the White House, which sees the concept as key to “confronting longstanding environmental injustices” endured primarily by “marginalized, underserved and overburdened communities.”

“EPA-funded researchers dredge reams of data to find a few trivial environmental differences between rich and poor communities and then blame the inconsequential differences on racism,” Steve Milloy, a senior legal fellow for the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute and a member of the Trump EPA transition team, told the DCNF. “If minority communities suffer from anything, it’s poverty. Ironically, poverty is caused by EJ policies that ban manufacturing facilities and kill good-paying industry jobs.” (RELATED: EPA Bureaucrats Can Rake In Six-Figure Salaries While Mostly Working From Home, Report Finds)

In addition to the enforcement aspect of EPA’s work on environmental justice, the agency has massive amounts of taxpayer dollars at its disposal to give to activist organizations that engage in their own environmental justice initiatives.

In December 2023, the EPA named the recipients of a combined $600 million in grants for environmental justice pursuits. Among the awardees were explicitly left-wing activist groups and incubators such as the Climate Justice Alliance and The Minneapolis Foundation, as well as Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, which facilitates de facto get-out-the-vote efforts.

The money came from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), President Joe Biden’s signature climate bill.

In April 2023, the agency shelled out a combined $177 million to a range of environmental groups to serve as “Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers.” Some of those recipients, such as WE ACT for Environmental Justice and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, had previously supported the Biden administration’s climate agenda.

Under Biden, the agency’s environmental justice grantmaking has essentially served as a “political tool” that is “used to fund activism of the left,” Gunasekara told the DCNF. “That’s what this administration is using environmental justice for, and it is really unfortunate because it degrades the way that environmental justice is considered in the administration … The communities that really need EPA’s help, they don’t need more activists.”

In addition to the more than $700 million in environmental justice grants that the agency distributed in 2023, the EPA is also gearing up to hand out approximately $2 billion in so-called “community change grants.” The program, also endowed by the IRA, is “designed to deliver on the transformative potential of the IRA for communities most adversely and disproportionately impacted by climate change, legacy pollution and historical disinvestments,” according to the agency’s website.

“During 2024, environmental justice will be a means for the Biden administration to funnel money to poor communities for election purposes,” Milloy told the DCNF.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact