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March 23, 2021

Environmental Justice and National Environmental Groups Urge Congress to Pass Recovery Bill Addressing Climate Crisis, Pollution, Clean Energy, Racial Injustice, and Jobs in Vulnerable Communities

In a letter to Congress written by the co-authors of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, the groups note that the United States is facing a devastating impact from intersecting health, economic, racial justice, environmental justice and climate crises

Contacts

Jake Thompson, NRDC, (301) 602-3627

Ari Drennen, Center for American Progress, (585) 746-5242

Washington, D.C.

Leading environmental justice and national environmental groups today urged Congress to advance a major economic recovery package that addresses climate change, environmental injustice, and air and water pollution while also creating jobs in vulnerable communities hardest hit by COVID-19, racial violence, economic inequality, and the climate crisis.

In a letter to Congress written by the co-authors of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, the groups note that the United States is facing a devastating impact from intersecting health, economic, racial justice, environmental justice, and climate crises. The platform co-authors also recently sent recommendations to the Biden-Harris administration on implementing its commitment to deliver 40% of climate investment benefits to disadvantaged communities, promised in the president’s Executive Order 14008.

The Congress-focused letter says that communities of color, and low-income, Tribal, and environmental justice communities have, for years, faced a toxic legacy of pollution due to environmental racism. Today these communities also are suffering disproportionate economic and health impacts from COVID-19 and from climate change.

“For these communities, the current challenges are deeply interconnected, and require immediate action. Congress now has an opportunity to meet these crises head on through bold leadership, a commitment to justice, and significant, sustained, and equitable investments in recovery with a focus on these aforementioned communities,” the letter states. “On behalf of our members and supporters, we urge you to address environmental injustice, tackle climate change, and build an equitable and just economic recovery.”

The groups call for added federal investment in areas that include clean energy, pollution-free transportation, health initiatives, clean air and water, economic development, support for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and pollution monitor and legacy pollution clean up to protect environmental justice communities from COVID-19 and other health threats.

The joint letter requests specific recovery spending for programs promoting jobs and to protect community health and safety, including for: Community Water and Energy Resource Centers in Michigan; Drinking Water and the Clean Water State Revolving Funds; Low-Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program; Small & Disadvantaged Communities water assistance program; Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP); Energy Department grants for pollution-free microgrids; Federal Transit Administration's Low or No Emissions Vehicle Program; National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) Environmental Career Worker Training; the proposed Civilian Climate Corps; and grants for environmental justice communities to address environmental priorities, such as PFAS cleanup.

It also includes the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Community Revitalization (OCR); Superfund Site Cleanup and job training; Community Development Block Grants; Community Development Financial Institutions; a Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator; Brownfields Redevelopment; USDA’s Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grant; Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities and Flood Hazard Mitigation programs; revitalizing energy communities; orphan well cleanup; Urban & Community Forestry Program; and Federally Qualified Health Centers, among others.

In addition, the letter says that economic recovery legislation should avoid increasing public health and safety risks, and should reduce local air pollution in communities affected by the cumulative impacts of multiple pollution sources, particularly Tribal communities and communities of color.

Read the letter to Congress.

Key partners in the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform offered these statements of support for a robust recovery package:

Michelle Martinez, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition: “Every community has a right to affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity that is community-owned. But as we’ve seen this winter in Texas, communities of color and low-income communities are hit hardest by climate disasters and disruptions to the electric grid. By investing in programs that bring down costs for families, support clean energy jobs and access to ownership, and make our energy system more resilient, we can ensure that everyone benefits from the transition to a pollution-free, clean energy future.”

Dr. Ana Baptista, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and the Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School: “Transportation is the largest contributor to U.S. climate pollution, and the harmful air pollution impacts from transportation and goods movement are disproportionately borne by many of the same communities of Color and low-income communities for whom public transit or other transportation alternatives are inaccessible or unaffordable. Congress must address these inequities by investing in programs to clean up diesel emissions from trucking and the ports sector and make significant investments in cleaner, more accessible public transit available to EJ communities.”

Dr. Mildred McClain, The Harambee House/ Citizens for Environmental Justice: “Communities on the frontlines of climate change and those fenceline communities located near the nation’s most polluting facilities know what their communities need — and what measures are most likely to work. We also know how to engage and empower our communities. Investing in these resources — and consulting with EJ community leaders on the details of the program — will be essential to bringing long overdue, transformational change.”

Richard Moore, Los Jardines Institute: “Access to safe and affordable water is a human right and not a privilege, made all the more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities of color and low-income communities bear disproportionate health and financial burdens during this pandemic, while also facing greater risks of losing life-saving water access due to utility shut-offs. Water quality and water quantity is essential in both urban and rural communities. Congress must invest in assistance programs to protect low-income families from shut-offs, and must direct funding toward desperately needed infrastructure updates to ensure safe drinking water for all communities.”

Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq. , New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA): “These investments provide our country with another opportunity to address the disproportionate amount of pollution often found in environmental justice communities, i.e. low-income communities and communities of Color, which has plagued them for years. We must especially find policy solutions to the cumulative risks and impacts caused by this legacy pollution in an effort to make these communities healthier and improve their quality of life.”

Peggy Shepard, WE ACT for Environmental Justice: “We need bold investments that will address the legacy of harms that persist in our indoor and outdoor environments, and contribute to poor health outcomes, economic instability, and climate fragility. The requested investments afford Congress the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to delivering meaningful and measurable responses to the institutionalized ambivalence and systemic inequities that are prolonging the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, and exacerbating economic hardship and racial injustices.”

Co-authors and inaugural signatories of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform

Center for American Progress, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, Center for the Urban Environment, John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, Thomas Edison State University, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, Harambee House/Citizens for Environmental Justice, League of Conservation Voters, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Los Jardines Institute, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Midwest Environmental Justice Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, ReGenesis Project, Sierra Club, Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School, Union of Concerned Scientists, WE ACT for Environmental Justice

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