Today, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 292 directing bold action to advance environmental justice. This new Executive Order builds upon Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 246, issued in January of 2022 by reestablishing the Secretary of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board as the Governor’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council. This transition will build upon the success at DEQ and create a forum for environmental justice concerns and opportunities throughout state government and the Governor’s cabinet.
“The cause of environmental justice began in North Carolina more than forty years ago and this effort will help our state take this challenge head on,” said Governor Cooper. “This Executive Order directs a whole of government approach that listens to communities that are suffering from pollution and the effects of climate change, and takes action to help them become safer, healthier and more sustainable environments.”
“We all have a stake in advancing environmental justice for underserved communities overburdened by pollution,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “As Secretary of the North Carolina DEQ, I was proud to establish the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board. Today, I am thrilled to see that Governor Cooper’s leadership has led to reconstituting the board as the Governor’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council. North Carolina is a national leader in delivering government-wide solutions to our most pressing environmental justice challenges.”
“The environment where we live, work, and play has a tremendous effect on our health throughout our lifetime,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Unfortunately, some communities in North Carolina experience greater health impacts from environmental threats. That’s especially true for communities of color. Collaboration across agencies and partnerships with the diverse communities we serve are critical to building a healthier environment for all North Carolinians.”
“Addressing environmental justice requires a whole-of-government approach and this executive order is an important step forward,” said North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. “These actions build on the work DEQ and other cabinet agencies are doing to ensure underserved communities are represented in processes across state government.”
“Through the creation of the Governor’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council, Executive Order 292 both broadens and deepens North Carolina state government’s commitment to enhancing the health and wellbeing of all North Carolinians, especially people of color and residents of low wealth communities who are exposed disproportionately to environmental hazards from noxious facilities and other locally unwanted land-uses in the state,” said Dr. James Johnson, Jr., Chair of the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board. “Successfully executed, Executive Order 292 and the programmatic initiatives of the Governor’s Advisory Council will go a long way toward ensuring the future attractiveness of the state as a place to live and do business.”
The environmental justice movement began here in North Carolina in 1982, with community protests in Warren County opposing a proposed hazardous waste landfill. Executive Order No. 292 builds upon the work that began over forty years ago.
The Order defines environmental justice as the just treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of income, race, color, national origin, or Tribal affiliation, in agency policies and programming that affect human health, well-being, quality of life, and the environment so that people: (i) are protected from disproportionate and adverse human health effects and environmental hazards, including: those related to climate change, the cumulative impacts of environmental and other burdens, and the legacy of racism or other structural or systemic barriers; and (ii) have equitable access to a healthy, sustainable, and resilient environment to live, play, work, learn, grow, worship, and engage in cultural and subsistence practices.
The Order reestablishes the Secretary of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board as the Governor’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council. The Council is empowered to be a forum for whole-of-government environmental justice concerns, and is tasked with providing guidance and recommendations to the Governor and State agencies to advance environmental justice. The Council will consist of a mixture of community members and state agency employees. The Board was first established in 2018 by then Secretary Michael Regan, who now serves as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and continued its work under Secretary Elizabeth Biser.
The Order also directs Cabinet agencies to develop environmental justice goals and measurable outcomes.
The Order directs the Department of Information Technology to develop an Environmental Justice Hub, including a statewide environmental justice mapping tool and additional information about environmental justice resources across state government.
The Order directs the Governor’s Office and Cabinet agencies to incorporate environmental justice considerations into their policies and programs to the extent permitted by law and encourages Cabinet agencies to use the statewide environmental justice mapping tool.
The Order also directs the Council to engage with academia to conduct research on cumulative impacts and develop recommendations for creating a framework and methodology to assess cumulative impacts.
Executive Order No. 292 advances environmental justice and ensures state government will continue to center environmental justice in future decision-making processes.
Read the Executive Order here.