White House says Biden ‘zeroed in’ on environmental justice despite not visiting Jackson, Mississippi amid water crisis

‘We have made this a priority’, Karine Jean-Pierre tells reporters

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Thursday 08 September 2022 09:00 BST
White House defends Biden's decision to not travel to Jackson, Mississippi amid water crisis

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Louise Thomas

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday defended President Joe Biden’s decision to not travel to Jackson, Mississippi to highlight the water crisis that has seen the city’s more than 160,000 residence forced to rely on bottled water due to a failed water treatment and distribution system.

Speaking at her daily press briefing, Ms Jean-Pierre was asked if Mr Biden had reconsidered a decision to not visit the Magnolia State capital last week now that water pressure has been restored to the municipal water system.

She said she did not have any trip plans to reveal, but stressed that Environmental Protection Administrator Michael Regan, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell, and other top officials have visited in recent days.

She added that Fema, the EPA, and the Army Corps of Engineers “continue to partner with officials there to help distribute water, expedite the delivery of equipment to repair the water treatment facility, and support it with safety inspections”.

Ms Jean-Pierre also noted that Mr Biden has signed an emergency declaration that will provide funds to reimburse residents for the purchase of clean bottled water and support “temporary repairs” to the city’s water system.

“Five point six million bottles of water have been distributed at state run sites to date, [and] Fema has an additional 5 million million litres of water available if requested at nearby distribution centers,” she said. She added that the Biden administration has had an “all hands on deck” response to the crisis.

Pressed further on why Mr Biden has not used the presidential bully pulpit to highlight the situation in Jackson by visiting personally, Ms Jean-Pierre countered that Mr Biden has been out front and “zeroed in” on environmental justice issues, and said the bipartisan infrastructure law Mr Biden signed — plus the recent Inflation Reduction Act — will put hundreds of billions of dollars into upgrading water and sewer infrastructure in “black and brown communities across the country”.

“We have made this a priority — the reason why the EPA Administrator has been there multiple times is because he has made that a priority in particular, dealing with environmental justice issues that we see across the country,” she said.

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