House Democrats unveil environmental justice bill

House Democrats unveil environmental justice bill
© Stefani Reynolds

Democratic lawmakers on Thursday rolled out an environmental justice bill that aims to address inequities faced by marginalized communities. 

“For far too long, communities of color, low-income communities and tribal and indigenous communities have not been a meaningful voice in the decisionmaking process impacting their well-being. Not with this bill,” Rep. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinSanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 House Democrats seek to codify environmental inequality mapping tool  House coronavirus bill aims to prevent utility shutoffs MORE (D-Va.) said during a press conference. 

Advocates have long called for action to tackle unequal effects of environmental issues on these communities. There have been studies, for example, that show that low-income and nonwhite communities face greater impacts from pollution. 

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The new bill, slated for introduction Thursday, would require that cumulative impacts be considered in Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act permitting decisions.

It would also use revenue from new fees on fossil fuel industries to support communities as they transition away from greenhouse gas-dependent economies and authorize $75 million to support projects to address environmental and public health issues. 

Additionally, it would require greater community involvement in federal agencies' decisionmaking.

Lawmakers were joined on Thursday by environmental justice advocates, who said they played a role in helping to shape the legislation. 

“I have to witness the health of my kids declining from the cumulative effects of pollution,” said Kim Gaddy, an environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action of New Jersey. “We live in communities that are under attack.” 

If the legislation passes the House, it would likely face hurdles in the Republican-held Senate. 

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said, however, “I think it’s going to be very difficult for people to turn their back on this issue.”