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Democrats reintroduce measure to address racial disparities in environmental impacts

Democrats reintroduce measure to address racial disparities in environmental impacts
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats and their counterparts in the House on Thursday reintroduced legislation that aims to address the disparate impact environmental harm and pollution has on people of color and low-income Americans. 

The Environmental Justice for All Act would authorize regulatory agencies to consider cumulative impacts in Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act decisions.

The measure would also require increased community input in agencies’ environmental decisionmaking and amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act, allowing private citizens and organizations to sue over alleged discrimination in environmental programs.

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Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthSu's track record make her an excellent pick for Labor Department post Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill Senate panel advances Biden's Postal Service nominees MORE (D-Ill.) introduced the Senate version of the bill, while House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinPolitical disenfranchisement is fueling environmental injustice White House names members of environmental justice panel Democrats reintroduce measure to address racial disparities in environmental impacts MORE (D-Va.) introduced the House version. Duckworth and Grijalva introduced the respective versions of the bills in 2020 as well.

Duckworth, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife, said in a statement that the coronavirus pandemic had emphasized health and environmental inequalities in the U.S.

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“In order for our nation to emerge from this deadly pandemic stronger than we were before, we must confront the fact that communities of color face public health challenges — which also make them more susceptible to the effects of the deadly COVID-19 virus — at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way,” Duckworth said.

“I’m proud to be introducing this vital legislation because it would go a long way toward making real every American’s right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land — regardless of their ZIP code, the size of their wallet or the color of their skin,” she said.

Grijalva, meanwhile, said it was essential to act on environmental justice issues with Democrats controlling the White House and Senate.

“With new leadership in Congress and the White House, we’re in a window of opportunity to save lives and establish environmental justice that the country can’t afford to miss,” he said.

“Today is the first step in pushing this bill and the principles behind it as far as they can go in our federal government. For too long, low-income communities, tribal and indigenous communities, and communities of color have been shut out of the decisionmaking process and left without the tools to fight back when big corporations set up shop in their back yards,” he said.