Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at Joint DOJ-EPA Event with EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan: Promoting Justice for Victims of Environmental Crime | OPA

Remarks as Delivered

Good afternoon and thank you so much for those kind words, Kris.

Each year for the past 40 years, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week has brought people across America together in common cause to confront and remove barriers to justice for victims of federal crime.

Throughout my own career—as a federal prosecutor, as a judge, and now as the Attorney General—I have seen first-hand the importance of supporting crime victims, including victims of environmental crime.

Although environmental crimes can happen anywhere, communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and other environmental hazards.

At the same time, for far too long, victims of environmental crime have faced barriers to accessing the justice they deserve—from the construction worker who was ordered to dispose of asbestos without the proper protective equipment, to the fenceline community whose exposure to toxic air pollutants from a neighboring manufacturing facility caused dozens of cancer-related deaths.

For far too long, the voices of victims in overburdened and underserved communities were not fully heard in the course of criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Today, as we reaffirm our commitment to seeking and serving justice for all victims of crime, including victims of environmental crime, I am very pleased to join you alongside my colleague, Michael Regan, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA and DOJ are entrusted with special responsibilities for ensuring that victims of environmental crime receive the services guaranteed to them to under federal law and are able to fully participate in criminal proceedings.

Thanks to the efforts of so many of you, DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training have joined forces to step up our joint efforts on behalf of victims of environmental crime by creating the nation’s first ever Environmental Crime Victim Assistance Program.

This important program, which is funded in part by DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime, will help ensure that victims of federal environmental crimes are properly identified, that their rights are protected, and that they receive the services and support they need—from the opening of an investigation through the final adjudication of a criminal case.

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Let me say in closing: it is fitting that this year we will celebrate Earth Day during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The principles that have for decades animated both Earth Day and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week are at the heart of a vital mission that both the Justice Department and EPA share: ensuring equal justice under law by advancing the cause of environmental justice. 

Environmental justice requires that victims of environmental crime in communities disproportionately burdened by environmental harm are empowered to participate fully and equally in our justice system.

Thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do to seek and serve justice for all these victims.

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