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June 2, 2017

Diaz Barragán, Jayapal, Mceachin Introduce Environmental Justice Bill Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), along with her fellow co-chairs of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) and A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) introduced a package of Environmental Justice bills to fight the impact of climate change on frontline communities.

The effects of climate change disproportionately burden frontline communities, including communities of color, low income communities, people with limited English proficiency, indigenous peoples and people living with disabilities. Even as the country moves toward a renewable energy economy that ensures safe land, water and air for everyone in our country, frontline communities continue to face higher rates of carbon pollution and health disparities.

This package of bills is aimed at tackling these issues head-on by supporting community-based solutions and implementing environmental justice principles.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that we triple our efforts to protect our communities who bear a disproportionate burden from potential and existing environmental threats. The federal government has been working on environmental justice issues since at least 1992 when then-President George H.W. Bush created a White House office dedicated to environmental equity. We must continue bipartisan efforts to address climate change and environmental injustices. Everyone regardless of zip code, color, or salary, deserves clean air and clean water.  These bills help us move in that direction,” said Rep. Diaz Barragán

“When it comes to higher rates of asthma, dangerous air pollutants, adverse health and even death at the hands of climate change, communities of color and people living on low incomes are paying a disproportionate price. Yet the Trump administration has erroneously proposed slashing funding for critical environmental justice programs,” said Jayapal. “From the pollution in the Duwamish River in my own district to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, this environmental justice package of bills begins to right the wrongs placed on frontline communities for generations. These bills prioritize the protection of people in both red and blue states and aim to position clean air, clean water and social justice at the center of the climate fight.”

“We must act to remedy both the short- and long-term effects that environmental injustice has on communities of color, low-income families and other marginalized groups. I am proud to join my co-chairs to introduce this legislative package that will emphasize community-based solutions to  create a healthier environment now and reduce the impacts on those most adversely impacted,” Rep. McEachin.

The first bill, the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program Act of 2017, would officially establish the Office of Environmental Justice at the Environmental Protection Agency. It would also codify the Environmental Justice Small Grants program, setting the appropriated amount to $16 million per year.

The second bill, the Executive Office of Environmental Justice Act of 2017, creates the Office of Environmental Justice within the Executive Office of the President. The director of the office would be tasked with conducting environmental justice assessments of executive orders, doing community and stakeholder outreach and assessing the progress made on implementing environmental justice policies at the following agencies: Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of the Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, National Economic Council, and the Council of Economic Advisors.

The third bill is a resolution offered by Rep. McEachin. The resolution highlights the importance of environmental justice. The environmental justice movement has been underway for decades and its emphasis on community-based solutions has driven its work on a sustainable path. This resolution reaffirms the vital importance of clean air, clean water, resource conservation, economically vibrant and socially just communities and other policy goals. The resolution affirms our commitment to ameliorating existing environmental injustices and to preventing future injustices by supporting greater objectivity, transparency and outreach in policymaking at all levels of government.

In April, Jayapal, Diaz Barragán and McEachin formed the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, comprised of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. The group aims to address the disproportionate impact of climate change and other environmental harms on communities of color, low-income families and marginalized groups. Compared to their white, non-Hispanic counterparts, communities of color have higher exposure rates to air pollution; people of color are almost twice as likely as white residents to live near industrial facilities that contribute to air pollution; and studies have found that low-income communities of color have limited access to clean water.

Rep. Barragán is a Member of the Natural Resources Committee, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Clean Energy, Environment, Public Lands, and Water, Congressional Progressive Caucus Environment Task Force, and Co-Founder of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Congressional Task Force.