Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill

Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill
© Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators on Thursday introduced companion legislation to the House's "Environmental Justice for All" bill aimed at addressing environmental inequalities faced by low-income and nonwhite communities. 

The legislation, unveiled by Democratic Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Trump adviser Jason Miller: Biden running mate pick 'his political living will' MORE (Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerUSAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA rule extends life of toxic coal ash ponds | Flint class action suit against Mich. officials can proceed, court rules | Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill MORE (N.J.) and Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Trump adviser Jason Miller: Biden running mate pick 'his political living will' MORE (Ill.), would require the government to consider the cumulative effects of certain permitting decisions, meaning they would have to consider how a new permit would interact with existing sources of nearby pollution. 

It would also prohibit discrimination based on disparate impacts, reinforce parts of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that require community input, and support workers whose communities are transitioning away from fossil fuel-dependent economies.

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“Confronting generations of systemic racism to achieve true justice will require us to recognize the role environmental racism has played and redress that by investing in long-term, sustainable environmental justice solutions to center and empower communities that have for far too long been excluded,” Harris said in a statement. 

The House version of the bill was introduced in February. The companion bill’s introduction was first reported by Grist. 

Studies have indicated that low-income and nonwhite communities face greater dangers from pollution. 

The coronavirus pandemic, which causes and exacerbates respiratory issues, has brought renewed focus to this inequality, which advocates have long fought to counter.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-led Senate and is not likely to get administration support, given the White House’s recent rewrite of NEPA, a bedrock environmental law. 

The White House changes, finalized this month, get rid of the government’s responsibility to consider cumulative impacts and complicates the protocols for weighing concerns from nearby communities.