Perry, asked about environmental justice, talks about electricity prices
BY REBECCA BEITSCH – 05/09/19 01:35 PM EDT
Energy Secretary Rick Perry, pressed on Thursday to define environmental justice, talked about the impacts of energy policy on consumer prices rather than on disadvantaged communities.
“I can tell you what it means to me,” Perry said in response to Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.). “Environmental justice to me is being able to pay an electrical rate that I can afford and at the same time emissions are not going up ’cause of the decisions made. I see environmental justice being attacked every day when the folks in the Northeast have to pay an exorbitant amount of money for the cost and the emissions going up. To me that’s a social and an economic injustice.”
Barragán, who noted her district is 88 percent Latino and African American, said Perry’s response didn’t reflect how some communities “disproportionately have the burden of injustices that are happening from air pollution.”
Nor did his answer align with the Energy Department definition, she said, which calls environmental justice “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws.”
A large body of research, including from the Environmental Protection Agency, finds communities of color are disproportionately exposed to pollution. The environmental justice movement typically involves discussions about how to reduce those impacts.
Barragán asked Perry to send more details to her office about how the department is making progress on addressing environmental inequalities.
Rep. Donald McEachin (D-V.A.), who also sits on the committee, said Perry’s comments were shortsighted and reflective of an administration that is “bouncing around in that dark on that issue.”
“Environmental justice is broader than that but obviously encompasses such issues as weatherization, where things are placed, how things are placed, who decides what is placed where—all of those are environmental justice issues,” he said, and typically are viewed through the lens of race and poverty.