Environmental Justice at Other Agencies

Click here to return to EELP’s Federal Environmental Justice Tracker.

As part of Biden’s whole-of-government approach to tackling climate change and environmental injustice, non-environmental agencies are playing an increasingly important role. For example, USDA is working to develop a new revolving loan fund to assist owners of heirs’ property, FERC is finally building out its Office of Public Participation, and HHS has established a new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. Some of these programs were explicitly mandated by law or by President Biden via executive order; others are discretionary decisions made by agency leadership.

These lists are not comprehensive. We include only those efforts with an explicit connection to addressing climate and environmental justice, and will be tracking these agencies less actively than those listed on the main EJ Tracker page.

US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

  • June 3, 2022: The Army Corps is seeking comment on its effort to modernize the Civil Works program, including measures the Army Corps should take related to environmental justice, including the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative. Written comments are due by Aug. 2, 2022 and can be submitted here.
  • June 3, 2022: The Army Corps announces it is reasserting jurisdiction over Twin Pines Minerals’ proposal to mine minerals outside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems. The Corps says that the project will have to submit new applications for federal permits because the Muscogee Creek Nation had not been properly consulted when the Corps initially granted permits under President Trump.
  • Apr. 14, 2022: The Department of Defense (DOD) releases its first ever Equity Action Plan as part of its implementation of Executive Order 13985. The plan highlights five new strategies to advance equity: increasing economic opportunities for small businesses and expanding contracting with individuals with disabilities; addressing past harms resulting from environmental and other impacts from defense activities; advancing equity for military families; addressing safe and ethical uses of AI technology; and investing in underserved communities and expanding access to the Department’s programs and opportunities. See a summary of DOD’s Equity Action Plan here.
  • Dec. 6, 2021: The same day as the first Tribal Nations Summit since 2016, the White House releases a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by 17 federal agencies, including the Dept. of Defense, committing to increase consultation and collaboration with Tribes in recognition of existing treaty and reserved rights. The MOU includes agency-specific commitmemts including to create a searchable treaty database, and integrate tribal treaty and reserved rights early into agency decision-making, in particular work to address the climate crisis. (See pp. 3-4 of the MOU for more).
  • Aug. 18, 2021: The Army Corps announces that it will require a full environmental impact statement for a large proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana, which lies along the infamous “Cancer Alley” between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The complex, if approved, would be one of the largest source of ethylene oxide, a potent carcinogen, in the US. The review will include an assessment of the project’s disproportionate pollution burdens on nearby majority Black  communities.
  • April 27, 2021: President Biden nominates former Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor as assistant secretary for the Army for Civil Works, and thus responsible for overseeing the Army Corps’ non-military programs, including permitting for pipelines and mines. Connor is an expert in Federal Indian Law and an enrolled member of the Taos Pueblo. During his nomination hearing on July 14, Connor told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that “it’s not equitable” to only consider the economic value of projects that are proposed in overburdened communities.

Denali Commission

Department of Agriculture (USDA)

  • Mar. 4, 2022: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announces funding for six Alaskan communities to relocate buildings and infrastructure “out of floodplain[s] and away from hazard zones created by riverbank erosion or karsting due to permafrost thaw.”
  • Feb. 10, 2022: USDA announces the members of the newly formed Equity Commission and Subcommittee on Agriculture. The Commission was funded and authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act and will provide recommendations to the Secretary on programs and actions to strengthen equity at USDA. Details about each member and their first meeting held on Feb. 28, 2022 can be found here.
  • Feb. 1, 2022: USDA announces the formation of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to aid in policy development and the identification of barriers to urban farming. The Committee will also seek to address issues of equity and food/nutrition access. For more information on the Committee and how to participate in public meetings, see the Committee’s page here.
  • Dec. 6, 2021: The same day as the first Tribal Nations Summit since 2016, the White House releases a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by 17 federal agencies, including USDA, committing to increase consultation and collaboration with Tribes in recognition of existing treaty and reserved rights. The MOU includes agency-specific commitmemts including to create a searchable treaty database, and integrate tribal treaty and reserved rights early into agency decision-making, in particular work to address the climate crisis. (See pp. 3-4 of the MOU for more).
  • Nov. 17, 2021: At her confirmation hearing, the Biden Administration’s nominee for USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Margo Schlanger, states that she is committed to improving the USDA’s performance on equal rights for farmers and for USDA employees. She also plans on advocating for a more transparent process of receiving and addressing complaints.
  • Nov. 15, 2021: Secretary Haaland and USDA Secretary Vilsack issue Joint Secretarial Order 3403 outlining steps to strengthen Tribal co-stewardship efforts, including agreements with Alaska Native corporations and the Native Hawaiian Community.
  • Sep. 23, 2021: USDA senior advisor for racial equity to the agriculture secretary, Dewayne Goldman, coordinates a cross-departmental equity assessment of the agency and its engagements with agricultural producers, finding the need for representation of marginalized communities at key levels and the elimination of barriers for disadvantaged farmers to access loans or other aid.
  • Sep. 23, 2021: The Senate Agriculture Committee approves Homer Wilkes, President Biden’s nominee for Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at USDA. If confirmed, Wilkes would oversee the US Forest Service. Wilkes was the first African American nominated for the post when he was first nominated by former President Obama in 2009. He currently serves as the Director of the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Division and has helped direct environmental recovery efforts after the 2010 BP Oil Spill.
  • Sep. 16, 2021: President Biden announces his nomination of Margo Schlanger to be USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. Schlanger, a former civil rights official in the Obama administration, is currently a University of Michigan Law professor.
  • June 28, 2021: USDA Secretary Vilsack announces Randy Moore will be the new Chief of the Forest Service, the first African American to hold the role. Moore previously served as regional forester for the Pacific Southwest.
  • May 28, 2021: USDA submits a final rule to OIRA that would establish new revolving loan funds to help resolve ownership and succession concerns on farmland with multiple owners (i.e. heirs’ property). OIRA completed review of the rule on July 22.

Department of Commerce

  • Sep. 28, 2023 NOAA awards $3.9 million for flood and wildfire resilience. The projects funded will improve community engagement in coastal resilience planning, assess tradeoffs and co-benefits for complex decision making in coastal communities facing inundation, and study interactions between social infrastructure and wildfire risks to improve community adaptation. 


Department of Labor

  • Sep. 26, 2023 DOL awards nearly $94 million for workforce training programs to support jobs in renewable energy, transportation and broadband infrastructure. The programs will focus especially on delivery training and support to historically marginalized, underserved and underrepresented communities, and funded projects will incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

Department of State

Department of Treasury

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

For more on FERC and other issues related to the electricity sector,  visit EELP’s Electricity Law Initiative.

  •  Feb. 15, 2024 At its February commission meeting, FERC announced a new policy “that the Commission will not issue preliminary permits for projects proposing to use Tribal lands if the Tribe on whose lands the project is to be located opposes the permit.” Implementing this policy, FERC denied preliminary permits for four new hydroelectric projects which would have been built on Navajo land and which the Navajo Nation objected to. The policy is intended to push developers to work with tribes and obtain their consent before applying for permits for projects on tribal lands. 
  • Dec. 19, 2023: FERC issues order granting Mountain Valley Pipeline a three-year extension (until June 2026) to complete the MVP Southgate Project. The extension was granted in spite of water and air quality issues impacting communities with environmental justice concerns, and questions about whether demand still exists for the gas the pipeline would supply.
  • Oct. 19, 2023: FERC issued a draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed relicensing of South Feather Water and Power Agency’s existing South Feather Power Project No. 2088. FERC found the project could cause minor damage to scenic views, and adversely impact nearby property values, including four environmental justice block groups. FERC concludes that the project will not result in a disproportionately high and adverse impact. More information on FERC’s SEIS for the South Feather Power Project can be found at Docket No. P-2088
  • Oct. 6, 2023: FERC issued a final supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed relicensing of Alabama Power Company’s Coosa River Hydroelectric Project No. 2146. FERC found that enhancements to fish habitats and recreation sites included in the project could benefit 86 environmental justice block groups in the project area, and that there will not be a disproportionately high and adverse impact on EJ communities in the project area. More information on the FERC’s SEIS on the Alabama Power Company’s Coosa River Hydroelectric Project can be found at Docket No. P-2146.
  • Sep. 15, 2023 FERC issued the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Virginia Reliability Project and Commonwealth Energy Connector Project. FERC finds that the project would cross 34 environmental justice census block groups, and would cause socioeconomic impacts including traffic impacts, increased demand for temporary housing and public services, and would impact water resources, visual resources and have air and noise impacts. Despite these impacts, FERC finds that the impacts on these communities would be temporary or could be mitigated through its recommendations. More information can be found at Docket No. CP22-502-000 and CP22-503-000.
  • June 30, 2023 FERC issues the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s Cumberland Project in Tennessee. FERC found that the 7 environmental justice block groups within the project area would face disproportionately adverse impacts associated with the construction and operation of the new pipeline, including potential permanent impacts on groundwater, viewsheds, and temporary impacts on air emissions and noise levels. However, FERC ultimately found that impacts on EJ communities would not be significant if the minimization and mitigation measures proposed by FERC and the company are followed. More information can be found at Docket No. CP22-493-000.
  • Apr. 11, 2023: FERC issues the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC’s Virginia Reliability Project and Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC’s Commonwealth Energy Connector Project in southeast Virginia. FERC found that the project’s  adverse impacts on the environment, socioeconomics, and air quality in 48 environmental justice block groups along the project route would be temporary, but that the project would result in long-term and permanent damage to forested lands. However, FERC ultimately found that impacts on EJ communities would be less than significant if FERC’s recommendations and both companies’ plans are followed. More information can be found at Docket Nos. CP22-503-000 & CP22-502-000.
  • Apr. 7, 2023: FERC issues the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for WBI Energy Transmission, Inc.’s Wahpeton Expansion Project stretching for 60 miles in North Dakota. FERC concluded that the Project will produce some adverse environmental impacts in 4 environmental justice block groups, but that these would be limited to construction and would not amount to a significant level if WBI Energy’s plan and FERC’s recommendations are followed. However, the EIS notes that the Project will “contribute incrementally” to climate change impacts, without evaluating whether they are significant or insignificant or whether they will impact EJ block groups.
  • Mar. 31, 2023: FERC issues the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Goldendale Energy Storage Project extending from Washington to Oregon. FERC notes that of the 7 EJ community block groups identified, project construction, operation, and maintenance would occur entirely within only 2 of the EJ block groups, though other impacts like decreased air quality, increased noise, negative effects on surface and ground water quality, reduced access to sites commonly used for plant gathering, and changes in the landscape affecting tribal culture practices will be experienced in all 7 EJ block groups. These impacts will result in a “disproportionately high and adverse effect” on the EJ community block groups during the 5-year construction period, while visual impacts on the landscape will be permanent. Comments on the draft EIS are due June 6, 2023 for FERC Docket No: P-14861-002.
  • Mar. 16, 2023: FERC Chairman Willie Phillips appoints Conrad Bolston as Senior Counsel for Environmental Justice and Equity. Bolston previously worked on environmental enforcement and compliance at Vinson and Elkins, LLP, and he has a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Maryland.
  • Mar. 10, 2023: FERC issues the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for Northern Natural Gas Company’s Northern Lights 2023 Expansion Project running through parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. A few “environmental justice minority populations” in Minnesota and Wisconsin lie in the Project’s path, and FERC states that its mitigation measures and recommendations will minimize the Project’s impact on air quality for these EJ populations.
  • Mar. 2, 2023: FERC Chairman Willie Phillips names Nicole Sitaraman as Acting Director of the Office of Public Participation. FERC’s press release notes Sitaraman brings experience in environmental justice and stakeholder engagement, and also sits on the DC Commission on Climate Change and Resilience and the advisory board to the Yale Center for Business and Environment. She received her J.D. from Boston University School of Law and her B.A. in English from Yale University.
  • Feb. 24, 2023: FERC issues the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC’s Southside Reliability Enhancement Project in North Carolina and Virginia. In the EIS, FERC finds that 10 out of 22 block groups in the project’s geographic scope are “environmental justice communities,” of which five contain a minority population, three contain a low-income population, and two contain low-income and minority populations. FERC finds that the Project activities for some compressor stations will impose “disproportionately high and adverse” effects on EJ communities, but Transco’s proposed mitigation measures and FERC’s recommendations will reduce impacts to less than significant levels.
  • Feb, 17, 2023: FERC issues the final environmental impact statement for Texas Eastern LP’s Venice Extension Project. In the EIS, FERC notes that 29 out of 47 block groups along the path of  the proposed pipeline project are “environmental justice communities,” and will bear “disproportionately high and adverse” EJ impacts along certain parts of the project. FERC also notes that the proposed project would result in some adverse impacts on the environment. However, FERC states that its recommendations and Texas Eastern’s proposed mitigation measures will minimize the environmental impacts of the proposed project to less than significant levels.
  • Feb. 16, 2023: FERC approves two cold weather reliability standards for emergency operations and extreme cold weather preparedness operations, to address unprecedented power outages due to extreme cold weather, particularly in the South Central U.S. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) proposed these recommendations following an inquiry into the 2021 Winter Storm Uri. The storm  left millions of people without electricity and access to water in Texas and southern central parts of the U.S., but the burden was disproportionately borne by  vulnerable communities.
  • Feb. 14, 2023: FERC announces a Roundtable on Environmental Justice and Equity in Infrastructure Permitting scheduled for Mar. 29, 2023,following the publication of the Commission’s Equity Action Plan last year. Interested parties can register to attend inperson or virtually here.
  • Feb. 3, 2023: FERC issues the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s proposed Cumberland Project in Tennessee. Out of the 11 block groups near the Project, seven are designated environmental justice communities. In the EIS, FERC finds that the project will have a “disproportionately high and adverse impact” on these EJ communities, but those impacts would not be significant after the implementation of recommended minimization and mitigation measures. Comments on the draft EIS are due by Mar. 27, 2023. FERC Docket No. CP22-493-000
  • Jan. 3, 2023: President Biden nominates Willie Phillips as FERC’s Acting Chairman. Phillips formerly served as the Chairman of the D.C Public Service Commission, during which he focused in part on advancing environmental justice and equity. Phillips previously worked for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and two law firms, and has a J.D. from Howard University School of Law.
  • Dec. 15, 2022 FERC issues a proposed rule revising its 2006 regulations for the siting of interstate electric transmission lines per the directives in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The rule  proposes to add three new resource reports to be filed with applications to the Commission, including an Environmental Justice Public Engagement Plan, Environmental Justice Resource Report and a Tribal Resources Report. FERC will accept public comment on the proposal after it is published in the Federal Register.
  • Nov. 17, 2022 FERC approves the Commonwealth LNG project in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, despite environmental justice-related objections raised by environmental groups and EPA. On Oct. 14, 2022, EPA submitted a letter to FERC, recommending that FERC implement measures to address the significant EJ concerns raised by FERC in the Commission’s Final EIS for the Commonwealth LNG Project. In his concurrence, Chairman Glick identifies that the Natural Gas Act seemingly does not provide FERC with a framework to consider adverse EJ impacts of proposed LNG facilities in evaluating whether to grant a facility a CPCN. Commissioner Danly cautions that without a credible method to determine the significance of the EJ impacts of a proposed LNG project, FERC should not create an “unsupported, arbitrary threshold” that would run afoul of the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA. (For more information on the Court’s West Virginia opinion, see EELP’s analysis here).
  • Oct. 21, 2022: FERC releases a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Southside Reliability Enhancement Project proposed by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC. FERC determines that the “most adverse environmental impacts would be temporary (during construction) or short-term (returning to background levels within 3 years following construction), but some permanent impacts, although not significant, would occur from Project operation;” however “impacts on environmental justice communities” near two compressor stations and two meter stations “would be disproportionately high and adverse.” FERC accepts comments on the draft EIS (Docket No. CP22-461-000) until Dec. 12, 2022.
  • Oct. 7, 2022: FERC releases the final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Spire STL Pipeline Project proposed by Spire STL Pipeline, LLC, for operation in Missouri and Illinois. FERC determines that “impacts from continued operation of the Spire STL would be less than significant, with the exception of climate change impacts resulting from GHG emissions that are not characterized as significant or insignificant.” In regard to the Laclede/Lange and Chain of Rocks Delivery Stations, FERC notes that the operation “would have disproportionately high and adverse impacts on environmental justice communities, although these impacts would not be significant.”
  • Sep. 30, 2022: FERC releases a draft EIS for the Ohio Valley Connector Expansion Project proposed by Equitrans, LP in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The Commission determines that the Project’s impacts on the environment would not be significant, and that “most adverse environmental impacts would be temporary or short-term during construction and would have minimal effects on existing land use, as the proposed facilities would be added within an area already characterized by energy production and transmission facilities.” Comments on the draft EIS are due to the Commission by Nov. 21, 2022, and must reference Docket No. CP22-44-000.
  • Sep. 9, 2022: FERC releases a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Commonwealth liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. The Commission finds that even with mitigation measures, the “impacts on environmental justice communities would be disproportionately high and adverse.” FERC has not said when it will issue a final decision on whether to approve the project.
  • June 1, 2022: Montina Cole, FERC’s Senior Counsel for Environmental Justice and Equity, says the commission will weigh “cumulative impacts and health impact assessments and impact mitigation measures” around natural gas projects. Cole also says FERC will be building its capacity to engage tribal governments; the commission currently employees only one tribal liaison to engage with 574 tribal nations. 
  • April 15, 2022: FERC issues its first ever Equity Action Plan as part of its implementation of Executive Order 13985. The two-year plan focuses on five areas: build the Office of Public Participation, strengthen Tribal government consultation and engagement, ensure natural gas project certification and siting policies are consistent with EJ, ensuring hydropower licensing processes are consistent with EJ, and strength FERC staff’s capacity to understand and promote equity as part of FERC’s mission.
  • March 29, 2022: FERC issues its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026. The plan includes prioritizing improved accessibility and participation in FERC proceedings, especially with Tribal governments, and integrating environmental justice and equity considerations into Commission processes and decision making. 
  • March 28, 2022: The director of FERC’s Office of Public Participation, Elin Katz, says the office is exploring options to compensate members of the public for legal fees and other costs associated with participation if doing so creates a hardship for them.
  • March 25, 2022: FERC issues a unanimous decision withdrawing the policy brief issued on Feb. 17 and reverting back to the agency’s prior method for reviewing natural gas pipeline applications. The new policy would have required FERC to consider environmental interests and the interests of environmental justice populations and surrounding populations. FERC Chair Richard Glick says the new guidelines “could benefit from further clarification.” The agency will accept comments on the policy drafts until April 25.  
  • Feb. 18, 2022: FERC announces the appointment of Nicole Sitaraman as deputy director for the Office of Public Participation. Sitaraman previously worked as vice president of external affairs and policy at a DC-based consulting firm.
  • Feb. 17, 2022: FERC announces new policy that will guide its reviews of new natural gas infrastructure development. The Commission will now consider a proposed project’s effect on climate change and a wider set of impacts on landowners and environmental justice communities. FERC will also now assess the economic need for a project beyond whether one or more shippers have committed to buying the gas.FERC also sets, for the first time, a greenhouse gas emission threshold to determine whether it automatically prepares an environmental impact statement (EIS). For proposed interstate pipelines, FERC will consider the project’s construction and operational emissions and may also consider downstream and upstream emissions. For proposed liquefied natural gas terminals, FERC will consider only its construction and operational emissions. For all projects, FERC considers emissions of 100,000 metric tons per year to be significant and therefore trigger a full EIS.
  • Nov. 16, 2021: The Senate confirms Willie Phillips Jr. to fill the open seat on FERC.
  • Oct. 28, 2021: FERC Chair Richard Glick states that the need for expediency in expanding the grid should not come at the expense of sidelining input from historically marginalized communities. FERC is committed to preventing new transmission projects from exacerbating environmental justice issues and is considering implementing new rules to govern the planning process.
  • Oct. 21, 2021: FERC authorizes two liquefied natural gas facilities, Corpus Christi Liquefaction in Texas and Sabine Pass Liquefaction in Louisiana, to increase their LNG production capacity. FERC states that this increased production capacity will not increase criteria pollutant or greenhouse gas emissions above previously analyzed levels. The Sierra Club criticized FERC’s decision, stating that this assessment disregards the impact that increased production capacity will have on impacted communities along the Gulf Coast and ignores the damage that existing facilities have already caused. 
  • Oct. 12, 2021: FERC announces the appointment of Elin Katz as director of the agency’s new Office of Public Participation. The Office was created to increase accessibility to FERC’s proceedings and to ensure meaningful participation from a more diverse range of people.
  • Sep. 9, 2021: President Biden announces his intent to nominate Willie Phillips Jr., a Washington utility regulator, to fill the remaining open seat at FERC. If approved by the Senate, the majority of members on FERC will be Democratic appointees. Phillips Jr. was nominated over the objections of many advocates, including over 490 environmental, tribal, and community-based organizations that had previously sent President Biden a letter naming three preferred nominees committed to environmental and energy justice. 
  • June 24, 2021: FERC announces its first steps in establishing an Office of Public Participation (OPP), which Congress first authorized in 1978. These steps include hiring a director, deputy director, and administrative staff member by the end of FY 2021. The office should be fully operational by the end of FY 2024. See FERC’s full report on establishing the OPP here.
  • May 20, 2021: FERC announces the appointment of Montina Cole as its first senior counsel for environmental justice and equity.
  • February 16: FERC Chair Richard Glick announces a new senior position to focus on environmental justice and equity issues and ensure such concerns are given full consideration. 

Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC)

The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, along with the Office of Management and Budget and the CEQ, issues guidance to federal agencies for implementing the Biden-Harris Permitting Action Plan. The memorandum, which seeks to strengthen and accelerate federal environmental review and permitting, provides guidance on conducting early outreach with tribes, states, territories, and local communities; accelerating permitting through early inter-agency coordination; establishing timeline goals and tracking project information; and improving responsiveness, technical assistance, and support.

General Services Administration (GSA)

Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • Dec. 3, 2023 HHS released a Climate Change and Health Equity Strategy Supplement, describing HHS agencies’ response to the climate crisis. The supplement details both actions already taken and planned actions for HHS agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate change resilience, with a discussion of the overlap between health and environmental justice concerns. Read the full HHS supplement here
  • Nov. 16, 2023 HHS released resources to support federal agencies and state, local, and tribal governments in addressing social determinants of health. These resources include the U.S. Playbook to Address Social Determinants of Health, which focuses on the actions of federal agencies to promote multiple dimensions of health, including a healthy environment.
  • Nov. 14, 2023 HHS, as part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), announced the release of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5). NCA5 is an analysis of the state of climate change in the U.S., and highlights climate change harms to human health. The assessment focuses on the particular harms borne by people with few material resources and the heightened vulnerability of BIPOC communities, sexual and gender minorities, and people with disabilities. Click here to read the NCA5 assessment.
  • Sep. 28, 2023 HHS announces the launch of the Climate and Health Outlook Portal. The Portal provides county-level forecasts of extreme heat, wildfire, and drought forecasts alongside individual risk factors in a community that might make those communities more vulnerable to those climate-related events. Access the Climate and Health Outlook Portal here.
  • Sep. 18, 2023 HHS launches the Environmental Justice Community Innovator Challenge to fund community and Tribal-led efforts to address health inequities in disadvantaged communities. The challenge offers prizes totaling $1 million that applicants may access by offering their own approaches to resolving systemic health disparities in their communities. Applications for Phase 1 funding are due by Jan. 30, 2024. For more information on the Innovator Challenge, click here.
  • June 1, 2023 HHS and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announce $65 million in funding for health centers with sites located in areas impacted by Hurricanes Fiona and Ian in FL, NC, SC, and Puerto Rico. This funding is available for new construction, renovation and repair projects, and infrastructure improvements to prepare for future emergencies. Applications must be submitted to the HRSA Electronic Handbooks (EHB) by July 6, 2023. Funding Opportunity No. HRSA-23-122.
  • May 24, 2023 HHS’s Office of Civil Rights releases its Language Access Annual Progress Report, outlining the agency’s progress towards providing people full and equal access to HHS’ programs and services. The Report highlights that the agency is working on rulemaking to incorporate recent civil rights case law developments under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Report also outlines the agency’s goals for 2023, including setting up a centralized language access assistance center for translation and interpretation of program materials.
  • May 4, 2023 HHS and the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) reach an interim resolution agreement with the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Lowndes County Health Department in the environmental justice investigation into whether the Alabama agencies violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits programs and activities from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin if the agencies facilitating the programs receive any federal funds. HHS and DOJ’s investigation revealed that the Alabama agencies imposed criminal penalties on Black residents of Lowndes County for poor sanitation conditions that the residents did not have the capacity to alleviate, further exacerbating the disproportionate burden and impact on these residents.
  • Mar. 16, 2023: HHS awards $1.6 billion in grants to states, US territories, and tribes to support affordable heating and cooling efforts in low-income households through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Funds from this award can be spent on weatherization assistance, heating, cooling, reduction of residential energy burden, and with immediate and temporary home energy needs caused by natural disasters.
  • Feb. 27, 2023: HHS’s Office of Civil Rights announces new internal divisions for Enforcement, Policy, and Strategic Planning, to better and more efficiently respond to civil rights and information privacy complaints.
  • Nov. 2, 2022 HHS releases $4.5 billion as part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help lower families’ heating and cooling costs and make home energy repairs. The funds, distributed by the Office of Community Services, will flow through states, territories, and tribes. Individuals interested in applying for assistance can visit energyhelp.us or call 1-866-674-6327.
  • Aug. 10, 2022: The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry releases its Environmental Justice Index (EJI)–the first national tool to map cumulative environmental burdens through the lens of human health and health equity. The EJI uses data from the Census Bureau, EPA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to measure and rank the cumulative impacts of environmental burdens at the census tract-level  based on 36 factors, including transportation infrastructure, pollutant exposure, preexisting health conditions, walkability, race, and housing type. The tool provides a single score for each census tract, which public health officials can then use to identify areas that are most at-risk for health impacts from pollution and other poor environmental conditions.
  • May 31, 2022: HHS announces a new Office of Environmental Justice within HHS’s Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, which will focus on developing and implementing a department-wide EJ strategy and offer EJ expertise to HHS’s Office of Civil Rights. The office will be led by Dr. Sharunda Buchanan who previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she researched childhood lead poisoning.
  • April 14, 2022: HHS releases its first ever Equity Action Plan as part of its implementation of Executive Order 13985. The plan includes commitments to address maternal mortality among Black, Native American and Alaska Native women; address barriers faced by people with limited English proficiency in accessing HHS programs; incorporate equity considerations into funding opportunities; and advance civil rights enforcement, including clarifying nondiscrimination provisions to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The plan also recognizes that “HHS must simultaneously shift the culture, resources, and approaches available to HHS to institutionalize and sustain a focus on equity over time.” See a summary of HHS’s Equity Action Plan here.
  • Apr. 8, 2022: HHS requests public input on its draft outline to further the development of the 2022 Environmental Justice Strategy and Implementation Plan. The final plan will guide agency actions to addressing environmental and health disparities, including in communities disproportionately impacted by environmental burdens. Comments are due by midnight ET on May 19, 2022. Send in your comments via email to [email protected]
  • Mar. 30, 2022: The newly released Fiscal Year 2023 budget request includes $100 million for research on the human health impacts of climate change at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. THat research would include a focus on individuals and communities who are vulnerable due to factors such as “poverty, discrimination, and access to care.” $90 million would go to the Climate Change and Human Health Program at NIEHS, and $10 would be distributed to research management and support programs.
  • Nov. 1, 2021: HHS’ Administration for Children and Families is awarding over $3.3 billion through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to low-income families to help with heating costs and cost-effective energy repairs. These funds are in addition to the $4.5 billion in LIHEAP funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act. Read more about the initiative here. Individuals can apply for assistance through their local LIHEAP agency or by calling the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) hotline at 1-866-674-6327.
  • Oct. 26, 2021: HHS seeks comments from Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities and NHPI-serving organizations to guide HHS’ Center for . Indigenous Innovation and Health Equity, including identifying priority health disparity issues, community engagement practices, and culturally appropriate interventions. Submit public comments by Nov. 19, 2021 by emailing CAPT Samuel Wu at [email protected] with the subject line “OMH RFI: CIIHE NHPI”. 
  • Oct. 13, 2021: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publishes a request for information on how to “best use its resources to help build the healthcare system’s resilience to climate threats, reduce the healthcare industry’s contribution to climate change while increasing sustainability, and address environmental justice issues in healthcare.” Comments are due Dec. 13 and can be submitted electronically here.
  • Oct. 8, 2021: The Food and Drug administration announces its first of several anticipated public meetings to discuss the Closer to Zero action plan, which addresses exposure to toxic elements from foods consumed by babies and young children. The first meeting will cover the plan’s scope with regards to impacts of toxic elements exposure and nutrition on children at different developmental life stages. The first meeting will be on Nov. 18 from 10am-4pm ET. Click here to register for the meeting, and click here to submit comments electronically. Comments are due by Dec. 20, 2021.
  • Oct. 7, 2021: HHS releases its Climate Action Plan, including commitments to diversify its workforce and  update climate vulnerability assessments.
  • Aug. 30, 2021: In response to President Biden’s EO, HHS establishes the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) to address climate change and health equity. OCCHE is tasked with several specific actions including, for example, identifying communities who are disproportionately impacted, addressing health disparities by climate impacts, assisting with regulatory efforts to reduce GHG and criteria air emissions throughout the health care sector, and fostering innovation in climate adaptation and resilience for disadvantaged communities.
  • July 22, 2021: HHS begins hiring to fill two to five positions in the new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity.
  • June, 2021: The CDC launches a new Heat & Health Tracker, displaying the rate of emergency department visits associated with heat-related illness by region. The data is near real-time. The interactive map also provides a monthly forecast of expected number of days in the next month at or above dangerous heat levels.
  • Jan. 27, 2021: President Biden orders the HHS Secretary to establish an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. The order also directs the Secretary to establish an Interagency Working Group to Decrease Risk of Climate Change to Children, the Elderly, People with Disabilities, and the Vulnerable.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

For an overview of HUD’s community investments, see the agency’s Community Assessment Reporting Tool (CART).

  • Mar. 28, 2022: The Biden administration releases its Fiscal Year 2023 Budget which makes several allocations to HUD to “advance sustainable communities, climate resilience, and environmental justice,” including:
    • $1.1 billion for climate resilience and energy efficiency improvements in public, Tribal, multifamily-assisted housing, and other assisted housing
    • $400 million to remove health hazards from homes, including lead, carbon monoxide, and radon
    • $250 million to develop and implement community-driven comprehensive neighborhood plans
    • Authorizing the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.
  • Mar. 24, 2022: HUD allocates almost $3 billion in Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to state and local governments recovering from disasters, including wildfires in California and Colorado, ice storms in Texas, and damage from Hurricane Ida. HUD also allocated an additional $723 million to states recovering from 2020 disasters, including Hurricanes Sally and Zeta. The funds must be spent according to HUD’s Feb. 1 Consolidated Notice, which requires recipients to prioritize climate change mitigation and equity for underserved communities.
  • Mar. 23, 2022: The Biden administration releases an action plan to address racial and ethnic bias in home valuations. The plan comes from the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE), co-led by HUD, and lays out goals to combat racial and ethnic bias in home valuations, which limits the ability of Black and brown households to accumulate multigenerational wealth and achieve housing stability. The PAVE plan includes steps to strengthen guardrails against unlawful discrimination, enhance oversight and accountability of the appraisal industry, diversify the appraiser workforce, empower consumers, and develop a research agenda on appraisal bias.  
  • Mar. 22, 2022: HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) releases a report finding that 31,500 of a total 200,000 mortgages provided by Federal Housing Administration (FHA) taxpayer-backed loans do not have proper flood insurance. The OIG’s report follows a report released two years ago finding that 73% of FHA-backed homes in North Carolina and Florida are in flood-prone areas. The FHA declined to respond to the OIG’s findings. 
  • March 8, 2022: HUD finds that the Texas General Land Office’s (GLO) distribution of more than $2 billion in flood mitigation funds following Hurricane Harvey violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, GLO’s allocation competition of Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds used two scoring criteria that “substantially and predictably disadvantaged minority residents, with particularly disparate outcomes for Black residents.” Last year, Houston and Harris County were initially awarded no funds out of more than $1.3 billion in federal flood relief. The civil rights complaint was filed by Texas Housers and the Northeast Action Collective. On May 16, HUD makes a formal determination that GLO violated Title VI and gives the Office 10 days to fix the recovery plan, saying GLO “may remain ineligible for discretionary funding until this matter is resolved to [HUD’s] satisfaction.”
  • Feb. 28, 2022: HUD and DOE announce the Better Climate Challenge, a voluntary, market-based platform for organizations to meet portfolio-wide greenhouse gas emissions (scope 1 and 2) reduction goals. Seven of the 80 inaugural partners are public housing or multifamily partners serving 40,000 low-and moderate-income households. The program builds on HUD’s Better Building Challenge by requesting commitments of 50 percent portfolio-wide reductions in carbon emissions over 10 years.
  • Feb. 1, 2022: HUD issues a Consolidated Notice with the requirements for how Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grantees should spend over $2 billion, first allocated in November 2021. Click here for a list of grantees. The Notice states that grantees must conduct a needs assessment to determine if CDBG-DR funds will have an “unjustified discriminatory effect on OR failure to benefit racial and ethnic minorities in proportion to their communities’ needs,” in addition to other requirements. Grantees are also “strongly encouraged” to explain how investments will “overcome prior disinvestment in infrastructure and public services for protected groups.” 
  • Jan. 26, 2022: HUD issues a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) of $4 million through its new Radon Testing and Mitigation Demonstration Program for public housing agencies to reduce the exposure of low-income families to radon. According to the EPA, 1 in 15 US homes have elevated radon levels, and radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. HUD expects to make 15 awards from the available funds. The deadline to apply is March 28, 2022. Questions should be directed to Dr. Rhona Julien at [email protected].
  • Dec. 16, 2021: HUD awards nearly $13.2 million to state and local government agencies in California, Ohio, and Tennessee to address lead-based paint and home health hazards as part of the Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction (LBPHR) Grant Programs. The funds will target over 600 low-income housing units in Long Beach, Cleveland, and Clarksville. See HUD’s announcement for more information on the funding amounts and target homes.
  • Dec. 9, 2021: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a report recommending that HUD collect, analyze, and publish demographic data from Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grantees on aid recipients in order to better assess whether or not the funds are reaching targeted vulnerable populations. HUD neither agrees nor disagrees with the recommendation, but identifies possible ways to collect that data. 
  • Dec. 6, 2021: The same day as the first Tribal Nations Summit since 2016, the White House releases a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by 17 federal agencies, including HUD, committing to increase consultation and collaboration with Tribes in recognition of existing treaty and reserved rights. The MOU includes agency-specific commitmemts including to create a searchable treaty database, and integrate tribal treaty and reserved rights early into agency decision-making, in particular work to address the climate crisis. (See pp. 3-4 of the MOU for more).
  • Dec. 1, 2021: The US Commission on Civil Rights is investigating possible discrimination in the federal response to Hurricanes Maria and Harvey in 2017. The inquiry will assess responses led by FEMA and HUD. While the commission has no regulatory authority, the result of the investigation could prompt regulatory or legislative reforms. In June, the Commission held a virtual briefing on the issue, and in March, the Commission’s Texas Advisory Committee submitted a report describing how the federal government’s response to Harvey exacerbated racial and ethnic disparities in wealth, income, and housing. 
  • Nov. 17, 2021: HUD releases its Climate Action Plan recognizing climate change’s disparate impacts on low-income families and communities of color and announcing three goals designed to mitigate those impacts. The third goal, environmental justice, is supported by proposals to promote climate justice in tribal communities, encourage equitable community engagement, create green jobs, and reduce exposure to lead poisoning and radon.
  • Nov. 1, 2021: HUD allocates over $2 billion in disaster recovery and mitigation funds (as part of the CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT programs) to 10 states recovering from the 2020 disasters. HUD states that the funds will go towards projects “with a specific focus on low- and moderate-income populations” for disaster relief and long-term recovery “in the most impacted and distressed areas.”
  • Sep. 13, 2021: National Public Radio finds that HUD sells homes in flood-prone places at 75 times the rate of homes sold nationwide, and does not disclose flood risks to buyers in its home listings. This trend disproportionately exposes low-income homeowners to flood risks. 
  • June 25, 2021: HUD publishes a proposed rule recodifying the 2013 “Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard” rule.
  • June 18, 2021: The Biden administration convenes a HUD-led interagency task force to review the home appraisal process and recommend regulatory and legislative steps to reduce racial disparities, including “conducting rulemaking to aggressively combat housing discrimination.”
  • June 10, 2021: HUD issues an interim final rule reinstating the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which Trump repealed. The rule allows HUD to suspend housing grants to municipalities that do not actively combat housing discrimination.