WASHINGTON (March 18, 2020)—Today, Reps. Raul Grijalva and Donald McEachin, along with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, have introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act of 2021. This important bill will give Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities more power to fight the disproportionate harms they face from pollution and climate change and direct the federal government to center environmental justice (EJ) in its efforts to protect public health. It’s a wide-ranging and much-needed piece of legislation, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
“This bill, if passed into law, would recognize the importance of immediate action on environmental justice, in alignment with the commitments made by the new administration,” said Dr. Adrienne Hollis, senior climate justice and health scientist for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “It is an acknowledgement of the issues affecting environmental justice communities, and of the power of these communities to build a better future. Legislation like this is necessary to counter to longstanding discrimination that has exposed Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities to disproportionate harm. This Act was created in partnership with EJ communities and advocates, and includes changes that the environmental justice movement has been demanding, in response to the immediate, real and pressing dangers we see in our communities.”
The bill has a range of provisions that would strengthen public health and civil rights protections. It directs the federal government to establish an interagency working group focused on environmental justice, putting previous presidential executive orders on environmental justice permanently into law. This working group would ensure that public health research, data collection and the enforcement of public health laws are inclusive and reflect the needs of a diverse range of communities. The bill would also strengthen avenues for community input on rulemaking and permitting; require the consideration of cumulative impacts from proposed development or federal action; support research and grants aimed at reducing health disparities and addressing environmental and public health issues; and invest in a just transition away from fossil fuels.
“The EJ for All Act doesn’t just support science—it commits the federal government to putting science to work, to solve problems and keep people safe and healthy,” said Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS. “We can no longer ignore the overwhelming evidence of environmental injustices and the demands of communities who see the damage of those injustices every day.”
UCS experts stressed that the principles of environmental justice are reflected both in the process of creating this bill and its substance.
“We can’t hope to address environmental problems without the involvement of the people who are impacted by these problems,” said Taofik Oladipo, policy advocate for the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS. “That’s why it is so important that the EJ for All Act was built collaboratively, with the participation of grassroots community groups and environmental justice advocates, and why it’s so important that it establishes clear paths for community groups, individuals, and tribal and Indigenous groups to make their voices heard.”
The EJ for All Act was drafted in response to comments from hundreds of environmental justice groups and advocates who have worked to document environmental hazards and impacts and promote science-based community-driven solutions in their own communities.
“This is the kind of change the environmental justice movement has been calling for,” said Dr. Hollis. “This is legislation that reflects community needs and interests, led by people who know the issues best. It’s a model for the future of environmental policy.”