Today the House of Representatives passed the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, a package of numerous bills to address wildfires, drought, and forest management. Included in the bill were significant provisions from the Environmental Justice for All Act to strengthen the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Civil Rights Act to provide communities impacted by pollution with more tools to hold industries and the government accountable. The bill also includes grant programs that will help communities engage in the environmental review process, reduce health disparities and improve long-term public health outcomes in frontline communities disproportionately impacted by toxic pollution. After the bill’s passage, Earthjustice Healthy Communities Legislative Director Raul Garcia issued the following statement:
“Cutting communities out of the process to determine what happens in their neighborhoods and then limiting their ability to stop discriminatory impacts in the courts is one of the major reasons why so many environmental injustices have persisted for generations. Disproportionately impacted communities of color and those of low-income have endured the burden of a broken and racist system of pollution control. This bill is also a testament to the important role that NEPA plays in our communities. In the face of consistent attacks on its effectiveness and utility, this legislation sends a clear message that we don’t need to weaken environmental reviews to address the climate-fueled challenges we’re facing. Communities deserve a seat at the table on the projects that impact their lives and livelihoods.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with those communities, Chairman Grijalva, Rep. McEachin and all those who voted to advance the Environmental Justice for All Act in celebration of the passage of these provisions. Their work has paid off, but it is far from over. There are pieces of the original bill that are missing from this package and we look forward to get those critical provisions — consideration of cumulative impacts especially — passed as well.”