McEachin, Grijalva unveil landmark environmental justice legislation
Reps. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., and Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., introduced their landmark Environmental Justice for All Act at a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill.
The event marked the culmination of a yearlong process with advocates and stakeholders in which members of Congress met with and gathered feedback from the public and the environmental justice community to craft the legislation.
“In far too many American communities, the fundamental rights to clean air, pure water, and an environment free of toxic pollution remain unrealized,” Rep. McEachin said. “With today’s introduction of the Environmental Justice for All Act, we are taking meaningful action toward ameliorating these wrongs and empowering the low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal and indigenous communities disproportionately affected by environmental injustice to fiercely participate in the decision-making processes impacting their well-being. I am proud to have worked alongside Chair Grijalva and environmental justice communities across our country on this comprehensive bill and look forward to continuing our work to ensure that our society becomes healthy and sustainable for all.”
“Justice and equity must be at the center of environmental and conservation policy,” Rep. Grijalva said. “For too long, low-income communities, tribal and indigenous communities, and communities of color have been shut out of the decision-making process and left without the tools to fight back when big corporations set up shop in their back yards. We cannot turn a blind eye as communities suffer. Today we’re turning the page to give the power back to impacted communities, where it should have been all along. I’m grateful for the community members who trusted us and engaged with us throughout this process, and for my partner Congressman McEachin. The journey for justice is long, and our bill is a big step forward to ensure environmental justice for all.”
A livestream of the press conference can be viewed at http://bit.ly/3cfnv2w.
Among other features, the Environmental Justice for All Act:
- creates a Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund – paid for through new fees on oil, gas and coal companies – to support communities and workers as they transition away from greenhouse gas-dependent economies;
- requires federal agencies to consider cumulative health impacts under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act in making permitting decisions and ensures that permits will not be issued if projects cannot demonstrate a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health;
- strengthens the Civil Rights Act to permit private citizens and organizations facing discrimination to seek legal remedies, overturning the Alexander v. Sandoval ruling; and
- provides $75 million in annual grants for research and program development to reduce health disparities and improve public health in environmental justice communities.
Grijalva and McEachin released a discussion draft version of the bill in November, which subsequently served as the basis for months of public input and recommendations through an innovative online comment tool called POPVOX.
The introduction of the final bill opens a new phase of the lawmakers’ ongoing project to elevate environmental justice in federal policy.