Dem Senators Announce Senate’s First-Ever Environmental Justice Caucus

RT: Protesters demonstrate Flint Michigan water 160306

Demonstrators protest over the Flint, Michigan contaminated water crisis, March 6, 2015. Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Yesterday, on Earth Day, U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tom Carper (D-DE) announced the creation of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus which will help enhance the Congressional response to climate justice issues in America. The caucus will raise awareness of the many environmental and pollution issues that have created public health challenges, which disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. It will also help vulnerable communities advocate for themselves before the federal government by providing expertise and assistance.

These are what the Senators who founded the caucus had to say:

Senator Duckworth: “Every American has the right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land regardless of their zip code, the size of their wallet and the color of their skin. However, too often that is not the case, especially for low-income communities and people of color.”

Senator Booker: “We cannot achieve economic justice or social justice in this country without also addressing environmental justice. Clean air and clean water shouldn’t be luxuries for the privileged, and the Environmental Justice Caucus is an important step toward raising awareness and taking action to address this injustice.” 

Senator Carper: Our Constitution guarantees every American the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — but none of those things are possible without clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. The sad truth is that the meaningful progress we’ve made over decades to clean our air and water has not been distributed equally.

As Bustle explained, “Although the Environmental Justice Caucus is the Senate’s first ever congregation on the matter, House Democrats have also brought up the issue of environmental progress in America. In March, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended her Green New Deal — which seeks to address climate change head-on — and criticized some Republicans who characterized her idea as “elitist.”

Why This Matters: In the United States’ a person’s zip code and bank balance can indicate whether or not the water they drink from their tap contains toxins. When poor towns in Alabama are literally choking on the stench of human waste pits, 5,000 drinking water systems in America aren’t meeting EPA standards, and low-income communities are being disproportionately harmed by air pollution, it’s an indication that Congress must do a lot more to address environmental justice. This new caucus is a great start but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso need to support their Democratic colleagues and signal that they are also committed to this issue.

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