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McEachin, Booker introduce legislation to combat legacy pollution

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(© Sean K –

Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have introduced the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act, a bill aimed at eliminating pollution that has disproportionately harmed communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities for generations.

The legislation would invest over $200 billion to clean up legacy pollution.

All Americans should have the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status. For generations, low-income communities and communities of color have been subjected to legacy pollution and have suffered adverse health effects as a result. Environmental hazards, like toxic waste sites and contaminated water lines, threaten the well-being of our communities,” McEachin said. “We must keep environmental justice issues at the forefront of every discussion and work to combat these inequities. The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act is a monumental step towards rectifying the harm these communities face. Not only will it help clean up legacy pollution, it will hold polluters accountable and ensure healthier outcomes for future generations.”

“In our nation, the biggest determining factor of whether you live near toxic pollution, whether you drink contaminated water, or whether you breathe dirty air is the color of your skin and your economic status,” Booker said. “That’s wrong, and it’s time to make it right. In order for communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities to thrive, this legacy of environmental injustice must be addressed. The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act will make the necessary federal investments to clean up this legacy pollution, and I plan to fight to have this funding included in the upcoming infrastructure and climate change legislation.”

“We’re grateful to Sen. Booker and Congressman McEachin for this proposal for investments that will not only remediate former mines, brownfields, and other hazardous sites, but will also create thousands of jobs in disadvantaged communities, including areas in Appalachia dealing with the decline of the coal industry. Now is the time to provide a major economic boost where it is needed most,” said Chelsea Barnes, legislative director for Appalachian Voices.

“Virginia Interfaith Power & Light applauds the just climate policies proposed within the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act of 2021. Congressman McEachin is leading the charge to ensure resources are available to safeguard the health of our neighbors on the frontlines of climate disruption through measures such as reclaiming coal mines and transitioning diesel school buses to zero emissions. We hope that more legislators will follow his lead and see the moral obligation to ensure that no community is poisoned by hazardous waste, and all have access to clean air, clean water, and a safe and stable climate for generations to come,” said Kendyl Crawford, co-director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light.

“It’s easy to talk about how toxins and pollutants overwhelmingly harm communities of color, but Congressman McEachin and Sen. Booker are actually doing something about it. The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Clean-Up Act is the most comprehensive environmental justice remediation bill we have ever seen, and it has our full-throated support,” said Mike Tidwellk, founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Fund.

“Trees are natural infrastructure that combat the impacts of legacy pollution by cleaning our air and water, providing life-saving protection from extreme heat and flooding, and catalyzing healthier more vibrant communities,” said Joel Pannell, vice president of urban forest policy at American Forests. “Unfortunately, a map of tree cover in most American cities is too often a map of income and race as far too many neighborhoods suffer from a lack of adequate tree canopy due to decades of exclusionary and exploitative policies and practices.  In this moment of bending the arc toward justice, Tree Equity is not just an environmental justice issue, it’s a moral imperative. We applaud Sen. Booker and Rep. McEachin for their leadership with this critical legislation, which would plant an estimated 100 million trees in low-income communities. Trees are essential to the health, wealth, and resilience of all communities and now is the time to close the gap so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of the power of trees.”

“Environmental racism has turned our communities into sacrifice zones, collective dumping grounds for pollution that has a cumulative impact on the health of those who live there, including higher rates of mortality and morbidity,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We thank Sen. Cory Booker and Congressman Donald McEachin for sponsoring the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act, which represents the sort of bold, equitable, and curative response needed to start building healthy communities for all.”

Rep. McEachin and Sen. Booker’s legislation would:

  • Invest $46 billion to clean up the most dangerous toxic sites in the country, including Superfund sites, abandoned coal mines, Brownfields, and formerly used defense sites.
  • Invest over $46 billion to identify and cleanup lead-based paint and other housing-related health and safety hazards in low income and tribal communities.
  • Invest $45 billion to replace lead drinking water service lines.
  • Invest $10 billion to provide grants to low income homeowners to install or repair wastewater disposal systems and drinking water wells.
  • Invest $3 billion to provide all American Indians and Alaska Natives with safe drinking water and adequate sewerage systems in their homes.
  • Invest $25 billion for urban tree plantings.
  • Immediately prohibit new major source air pollution permits in communities that EPA has identified as already having a heightened risk of cancer due to air pollution and in communities currently overburdened by particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution.
  • Prohibit renewal of major source air pollution permits in these communities beginning in 2025.

Read the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act bill textfact sheettwo-pager, and list of endorsing organizations.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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