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 McEachinHouse approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain 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.”