July 30, 2020

Harris, Booker, Duckworth Introduce Comprehensive Legislation to Help Achieve Environmental Justice for All

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), on Thursday introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, comprehensive environmental justice legislation to achieve health equity and climate justice for all, particularly underserved communities and communities of color. This legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Representative A. Donald McEachin (D-VA). This important legislation was developed over the last year through a public process in collaboration with advocates and stakeholders in the environmental justice community.

As our nation reckons with systemic racism, our fight for clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment cannot be disentangled from the fight for justice. Environmental racism fuels disparities in environmental and public health and its impacts can be seen across society. Systemic barriers, including redlining, intentional disinvestment, and unregulated pollution, have systematically had a devastating impacts on communities of color.

“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,” said Senator Harris. “I’m thrilled to partner with Chairman Grijalva and Rep. McEachin and those who have fought for environmental justice for generations to introduce this legislation that will help us achieve environmental justice for all.”

“For too long, communities of color, indigenous communities and low-income communities have been disproportionately exposed to and harmed by pollution,” said Senator Booker. “We cannot achieve lasting economic justice or social justice without ensuring environmental justice, and the Environmental Justice for All Act is another important step in continuing the fight to right these wrongs.”

“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,” Senator Duckworth said. “I’m proud to be helping Senator Harris introduce this important bill, which would go a long way to making sure that every American has the 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.”

“This bill isn’t about me, Sen. Harris or any of our colleagues in Washington joining this fight. It’s about the millions of our fellow Americans who need Congress to step up and right the inequities that their communities have confronted for generations. Environmental justice communities that have borne the brunt of pollution and neglect are tired of having waste incinerators and chemical plants built in their back yards without legal protection and dying prematurely without any acknowledgment from the powers that be. This country is crying out for environmental justice, and with Sen. Harris leading the way in the Senate, we’re closer than ever to making the Environmental Justice for All Act the law of the land,” said Chair Grijalva.

“The fact that Black Americans and people of color are dying disproportionately from COVID-19 exposes the deadly consequences of our nation's history of environmental injustice. We cannot and must not accept this - we need environmental justice for all and we need environmental justice now. With Senator Harris' introduction of the Environmental Justice for All Act, we are returning power to the people and ensuring that frontline and fenceline communities are centered in our policymaking. I am pleased to have a strong partner in Senator Harris as we work to create a better, more sustainable and more equitable future for all Americans, while delivering justice to communities that have long been denied,” said Congressman McEachin.

Specifically, the Environmental Justice for All Act:

  • Amends and Strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination based on disparate impacts and overturns Alexander v. Sandoval.
  • Requires the Consideration of Cumulative Impacts: Explicitly adds cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.
  • Codifies the Clinton Administration’s Environmental Justice Executive Order: Creates a working group to ensure compliance and enforcement and develop government-wide strategies.
  • Reinforces the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Requires early and meaningful involvement in actions impacting communities, including Tribes.
  • Asserts Health Equity: Funds programs to study potentially harmful products marketed towards women and girls of color.
  • Provides Outdoor Access for All: Establishes programs to ensure more equitable access to parks and the outdoors.
  • Establishes Environmental Justice Grant Programs: Funds grants for research, education, and projects to address environmental and public health issues.
  • Ensures a Fair and Just Transition: Establishes a Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund to support communities and workers as they transition away from fossil fuel-dependent economies.

In addition to Harris, Booker, Duckworth, Grijalva, and McEachin, the Environmental Justice for All Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Warren (D-MA), Feinstein (D-CA), Wyden (D-OR), Durbin (D-IL), Smith (D-MN), Blumenthal (D-CT), Markey (D-MA), Schatz (D-HI), Merkley (D-OR), Gillibrand (D-NY), Udall (D-NM).

Reps. Grijalva and McEachin released a discussion draft of the bill in November 2019, which subsequently served as the bases for months of public input and recommendations. In addition to opening the draft bill to online comments, outside recommendations were used to shape a statement of principles on which the bill was ultimately based.

This legislation has the support of dozens of environmental justice groups and leaders.

The text of the Environmental Justice for All Act can be read HERE.

A one-pager of the Environmental Justice for All Act can be read HERE.