Joe Biden Proposes New DOJ Environmental Justice Division to Fight Pollution

Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden gives a speech to workers after touring McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pennsylvania on July 9, 2020. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden is planning to create a new division within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat pollution and advance “environmental and climate justice.”

Biden, the presumptive Democrat nominee, unveiled his new climate change proposal on Tuesday. The plan, anchored around spending two trillion dollars over four years, is heavily influenced by the recommendations of a unity task force set up earlier this year by Biden and his vanquished primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

One of those recommendations, which Biden embraced on Tuesday, is to create a new Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the DOJ. The division will be responsible for cracking down on the businesses and corporations, including their executives, that contribute to pollution. It will be empowered to pursue pollution “cases to the fullest extent permitted by law and, when needed, seek additional legislation to hold corporate executives personally accountable–including jail time [when] merited.”

“Allowing corporations to continue to pollute–affecting the health and safety of both their workers and surrounding communities – without consequences, perpetuates an egregious abuse of power,” the Biden campaign states.

The new division is modeled, in part, upon efforts funded by Biden’s onetime primary rival, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in recent years. Starting in August 2017, the former mayor began providing grants to local and state governments for the purposes of hiring prosecutors to pursue environmental and climate change litigation. The privately-funded lawyers were embedded in the offices of at least nine state attorneys general and those of countless local prosecutors. The hires were funded by an initial $6 million dollar grant from the former mayor’s philanthropic arm, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Bloomberg’s effort was widely criticized by Republicans and good government groups. Many argued that allowing a third party to fund the deputizing of state and local law enforcement officials politicized the justice system.

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