Following year-long collaborative effort, Chair Grijalva and Representative McEachin introduce landmark environmental justice legislation
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) introduced their landmark Environmental Justice for All Act at a press conference today 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.
“Justice and equity must be at the center of environmental and conservation policy,” Chair 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.”
“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.”
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.
- Provides $75 million in annual grants for research and program development to reduce health disparities and improve public health in environmental justice communities.
Text of the comprehensive environmental justice legislation can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2PvXHFr.
A fact sheet on the legislation can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2wQxon2. Grijalva and McEachin released a discussion draft version of the bill in November 2019, 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.
The lawmakers held a daylong convening on environmental justice at the U.S. Capitol on June 26, 2019, and continue to host regular discussions of the Environmental Justice Working Group, an alliance of stakeholders that helped craft the Environmental Justice for All Act from its inception. In addition to opening the draft bill to online comments, the authors used outside recommendations to shape the statement of principles on which the bill was ultimately based.
The bill includes issues in the Natural Resources Committee’s jurisdiction, including an update of the National Environmental Policy Act, that Chair Grijalva intends to hold a hearing on this year.
Original cosponsors of the Environmental Justice for All Act include Committee Vice-Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Rep. Jesús G. ‘Chuy’ Garcia (D-Ill.), Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-Calif.), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Rep. Donald S. Beyer, Jr. (D-Va.), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapa (D-Wash.).
The newly introduced legislation enjoys enthusiastic support from environmental justice groups.
Statements of Support
The Climate Justice Alliance welcomes the Environmental Justice for All Act, under the leadership of Representatives Grijalva and McEachin. During this challenging time for human rights and the environment, it is heartening to see a bill that honors and reinvigorates past achievements like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while linking them to current environmental justice initiatives and solutions. We are especially pleased that the bill puts the lived realities and cumulative impacts affecting our communities front and center in decision-making, and appreciate the approach that calls for a Just Transition to a Regenerative Economy for all communities and workers. Furthermore, CJA remains encouraged by the overall process for developing this sweeping legislation, which has been open, fair, and inclusive, in the spirit of the Jemez Principles.”
- Angela Adrar, Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance
“Virginia Interfaith Power & Light applauds the work of Chair Raúl Grijalva and Rep. Donald McEachin on the landmark Environmental Justice for All Act. This bill upholds our sacred commitment to be stewards of the gift of Creation by actualizing loving our neighbors in tandem with caring for the Earth.”
- Kendyl Crawford, Director, VA Interfaith Power & Light
“Growing up in Claymont, we were used to seeing a thick layer of steel dust on our cars in the morning and feeling it in our lungs. This bill, especially the sections about cumulative impacts and civil rights, is critical to legacy communities like mine because the laws on the books are not protecting us from Environmental Racism poisoning our families. We aren’t waiting around for someone to save us. We have solutions and we thank the sponsors and staff for including our community expertise and solutions into this legislation.”
- Larry Lambert, resident of Claymont, DE and member of Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice—an affiliate member of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform
“On behalf of the Moving Forward Network, we applaud Chairman Grijalva and Representative McEachin for working to address environmental racism – both through their environmental justice initiative and now through the introduction of the Environmental Justice for All Act. Their approach to crafting this legislation has been grounded in the input of representatives from local EJ communities, and those communities were at the center of identifying both the issues and the solutions to environmental injustice. Moving forward now is confident that together with the EJ community and in partnership with Chair Grijalva and Representative McEachin we can finally advance environmental justice for communities that have been overburdened by pollution and environmental degradation.”
- Angelo Logan, Campaign Director, with Moving Forward Network
“An Executive Order on Environmental Justice was issued in 1994; today 26 years later, a House Bill is being introduced by Congressman Raul M. Grijalva and Representative McEachin. Environmental Justice Communities throughout our Country will be elated and overjoyed to finally have legislative support in addressing their environmental concerns. For too long we have struggled with and unjust system that complicated the efforts of addressing environmental issues in low-come and Communities of Color. We firmly believe this is a huge step forward in addressing the needs of communities who have a history of being dumped on. We feel confident that this legislation will surely benefit all of us in the future.”
- Juan Parras, Director and Ana Parras, Co-Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.)