US Justice Department Announces Director of the Office of Environmental Justice

The Justice Department today announced the appointment of Cynthia M. Ferguson as the Director of the Office of Environmental Justice, where she will lead efforts to engage all Justice Department bureaus, components and offices in the collective pursuit of environmental justice.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the first-ever Office of Environmental Justice last May along with a series of measures as part of a comprehensive enforcement strategy to secure environmental justice for all Americans.

“Communities of color, indigenous communities and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution and climate change,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “Cynthia Ferguson has demonstrated the exact kind of dedication and vision that we need to address these longstanding inequities and I look forward to her leadership of this new office.”

“Cynthia Ferguson’s more than two decades of service to the Environment and Natural Resources Division and the cause of justice make her especially prepared to take on this role,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Cynthia will play a critical role in the department’s efforts to hear and to address the concerns of American communities who have borne a disproportionate burden from pollution for far too long.”

The department also announced that Deputy Chief Daria Neal will serve as the Civil Rights Division Liaison to the Office of Environmental Justice. Ms. Neal joined the Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section in 2010 as a Deputy Chief of the Section. Her work includes enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and she has been integral to supporting federal agencies’ civil rights enforcement and compliance efforts to advance environmental justice in areas ranging from environmental protection, transportation, health, and housing. She also leads the Title VI/Environmental Justice Committee of the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council.

Ms. Ferguson has served as the Acting Director of the Office of Environmental Justice housed within the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice since May 2022.

Ms. Ferguson began her career in 2000 as an Honors Attorney in the Division’s Environmental Enforcement Section and has handled a variety of challenging matters. In 2012, she was selected to take on the new senior level position as the Division’s Senior Litigation Counsel for Environmental Justice.

Ms. Ferguson has worked to ensure that environmental justice principles are integrated into the Division’s affirmative and defensive work. She leads the Division’s Environmental Justice Workgroup and the Division’s overall environmental justice strategic planning efforts. She also serves as the Department’s designated Environmental Justice Officer on the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality and established by Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, in 2021. She helped lead the Division’s effort to develop the Department’s Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other client agencies, as directed by Executive Order 14008.

Ms. Ferguson earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie?Mellon University and a law degree from the Chicago?Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.