Home ‘Empower vulnerable communities:’ Environmental Justice for All Act passes committee

‘Empower vulnerable communities:’ Environmental Justice for All Act passes committee

tap water
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The House Natural Resources Committee passed the Environmental Justice for All Act on July 27.

Sponsored by Rep. A. Donald McEachin of Virginia and Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the legislation “seeks to combat environmental injustice and empower vulnerable communities across the United States,” according to a press release.

“Environmental injustice harms every American, but it disproportionately impacts low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal and Indigenous communities,” McEachin said in a press release. “It is past time Congress takes decisive action to address long-standing inequities. Today, we took the next step in that process by passing the Environmental Justice for All Act out of committee. I thank Chair Grijalva for his leadership and collaboration on this important piece of legislation, and I look forward to supporting it on the House floor.”

The legislation was crafted after years of consultation with environmental justice communities, stakeholders and community leaders, and the result of an inclusive process that solicited public input and feedback to develop a tailored, comprehensive policy proposal. Action on the legislation July 27 follows a hearing held in February 2022.

According to the press release, McEachin pushed back against Republicans’ criticisms on Wednesday that he and Grijalva drafted the bill on their own.

“As you know, we took our time; we went all over this country to different EJ communities. They have different problems, different issues, but what they had in common was a desire for the types of things that are in this legislation – they wrote this legislation. For the Ranking Member and the other side of the aisle to suggest that they do not know what is best for themselves is part of the problem,” McEachin said.

Grijalva and McEachin hosted a public input session recently in Richmond where they heard from residents living in overburdened communities. They also visited local sites where environmental injustices are present as the last stop on a nationwide tour for the Environmental Justice for All Act.

“The people who decide whether these communities deserve water that is safe to drink or air that is safe to breathe do not experience life like those who live in those communities,” Grijalva said Wednesday. “H.R. 2021 will change that. The bill moves the center of power. It will change the available leverage, and it will repurpose the megaphone when it comes to protecting marginalized communities from continuing to be the dumping ground from dangerous pollution. This legislation is preventive and protective.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.