08/03/2023 - Environmental Justice

President Biden Issues Long-Awaited Update to Clinton-era Environmental Justice Executive Order

by Hannah Perls

On April 21, 2023, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 14096, “Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All,” updating President Clinton’s EO 12898 issued in 1994, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.” Environmental justice (EJ) groups have long criticized EO 12898 for not specifying how agencies should fulfill its mandates, nor creating accountability mechanisms to ensure agencies comply. President Biden’s EO broadens the scope of the Clinton order and offers agencies specific guidance on how to take EJ-related concerns into consideration while fulfilling their statutory mandates, including under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

In October 2023, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued guidance on implementing EO 14096, including a template for agencies’ Environmental Justice Strategic Plans.

While the 2023 EO is not judicially enforceable, it has the potential to drive more stringent environmental and public health regulations and permitting decisions by requiring agencies to account for the unique and heightened impacts to communities with EJ concerns.

Read EELP’s analysis of President Biden’s EO 14096 here.

For a summary of key differences between the 1994 EO and the 2023 EO, see EELP’s summary table here.