U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her cosponsorship of bicameral legislation to ensure environmental justice and health equity for all. Environmental racism has fueled disparities in environmental and public health outcomes on communities of color across the country. Additionally, systemic barriers such as redlining, intentional disinvestment, and unregulated pollution have systematically harmed and disadvantaged communities of color and low-income communities. The Environmental Justice for All Act is comprehensive legislation that would merge the fights for economic, social, and environmental justice by investing in long-term, sustainable environmental justice solutions that center those who have been excluded for generations. The legislation was led in the Senate by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
“In our nation’s moment of moral reckoning, we must commit to the fight for a healthy environment, clean air, and clean water,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Across New York State and the country, the disregard for the health and safety of communities of color and other underserved communities in environmental decisions has had lasting and devastating consequences. I’m proud to fight alongside my colleagues to pass the Environmental Justice for All Act in order to invest in long-term, sustainable environmental justice solutions for those who have been excluded for generations.”
Across New York State, environmental and infrastructure decisions have wreaked havoc on local communities. Cohoes is just one of many New York communities that have experienced toxic air pollution from chemical incineration that threatens the health of nearby public housing residents. I-81 in Syracuse displaced the residents of an historically Black neighborhood and led to more highway traffic that increased pollution for those who still live there. And in Hunts Point in the Bronx, along with other areas of NYC, pollution from heavy truck traffic has damaged residents’ health and contributed to generations of asthma. These are just a few examples of the types of harmful environmental impacts on New Yorkers that this bill is designed to correct for the future. The Environmental Justice for All Act was developed through a yearlong public process in collaboration with advocates and stakeholders in the environmental justice community. Specifically, the legislation:
- Amends and Strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination based on disparate impacts and overturns Alexander v. Sandoval.
- Requires the Consideration of Cumulative Impacts: Explicitly adds cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.
- Codifies the Clinton Administration’s Environmental Justice Executive Order: Creates a working group to ensure compliance and enforcement and develop government-wide strategies.
- Reinforces the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Requires early and meaningful involvement in actions impacting communities, including Tribes.
- Asserts Health Equity: Funds programs to study potentially harmful products marketed towards women and girls of color.
- Provides Outdoor Access for All: Establishes programs to ensure more equitable access to parks and the outdoors.
- Establishes Environmental Justice Grant Programs: Funds grants for research, education, and projects to address environmental and public health issues.
- Ensures a Fair and Just Transition: Establishes a Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund to support communities and workers as they transition away from fossil fuel-dependent economies.