Energy & Environment

Inslee proposes opening environmental justice office

Aaron Schwartz

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing to open an office of environmental justice if he is elected president.

Under the policy offered by Inslee on Monday, the new agency would be committed to solving climate-related injustice typically seen in disenfranchised and low-income communities.

{mosads}It’s the latest in a series of climate policies offered by Inslee, who has sought to lead the Democratic field on the issue. The latest proposal comes the day before Democrats will begin two days of debates in Detroit.

Inslee would turn the White House Council on Environmental Quality into the Council on Environmental Justice. The new council would then lay out what communities are the most at risk to exposure to toxic chemicals and pollution.

Inslee’s plan includes investment in front-line communities, or neighborhoods located close to power plants and manufacturers that often witness the negative effects of emissions first-hand. 

His plan includes a guarantee that $1.2 trillion of his climate policy’s overall clean energy investments would go straight to low-income communities. It would also create an energy fund to help low-income families pay their energy bills. Low-income people are the most likely to experience pricing spikes if the U.S. switches to more renewable energy or a carbon tax.

Inslee’s plan mirrors a thematic message seen from the progressive left on issues of climate change — that economics, racial injustice and climate action are all linked. Like the the Green New Deal touted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), another presidential candidate, Inslee’s plan aims to limit pollution and carbon emissions by helping the poor.

“The facts are clear: climate change and pollution disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color, and are major contributors to ongoing economic and racial inequality,” Inslee’s plan states. “For decades, corporate polluters have used lower-income communities as dumping grounds, and these communities now face an enormous and unequal burden from the costs of pollution and climate change.”

Inslee has been developing his plan, the last leg in a five-part series of climate action proposals, for months.

His campaign said it has worked closely with environmental justice groups to develop the proposal, including a listening session with leaders of several groups at the Netroots Nation national political action conference in Philadelphia earlier this year. Inslee was a keynote speaker at the event.

Inslee’s four previous climate-focused policies zeroed in on a clean energy transition, clean job investment, a global climate plan and transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Inslee raised enough to participate in this week’s Democratic debate but currently is sitting with less than 1 percent according to polls. He announced his climate action plan Monday in Michigan’s most polluted community — a Detroit neighborhood near the Marathon Oil refinery.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Climate change Environmental justice Jay Inslee Michigan plan
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