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With the Trump administration rolling back environmental protections and exacerbating environmental inequalities, the burden had landed on states to take up measures to protect minority and poor communities. According to Professor Robert Bullard of Texas Southern University, who Inside Climate News called one of the founders of the environmental justice movement, it was that “lack of respect for environmental regulation” and the fast and furious pace of those rollbacks that “galvanized environmental justice campaigns across the nation.” States like New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and Virginia all have made significant strides in environmental justice laws and programs.
Why This Matters: Environmental Justice (EJ) was still not well known in 2019 when Senators Cory Booker, Tammy Duckworth, and Tom Carper created the first EJ Caucus in the Senate in 2019. They made a powerful case for it here in ODP. But in 2020, the pandemic and racial justice crises, along with President-elect Biden’s embrace of this movement, has made it the “north star” for environmental policies across the board, starting with climate change. And as with climate, state governments are leading the way.
New Jersey is one of the top states making progress. State law requires regulators to deny permits for projects where they determine it will put an additional burden on minority and low-income communities that already face health and environmental threats.
A similar proposed law in Oregon would mandate the government to consider the “cumulative” impact on neighborhoods that are already burdened by pollution before granting permits to projects that potentially pose a threat to human health or the environment.
In Illinois, a proposed law would provide $2 billion to fund clean energy and climate mitigation initiatives in low-income communities of color by 2030.
And Massachusetts lawmakers are hoping to override the veto by Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who struck down a bill they passed that that would for the first time codify the definition of an “environmental justice community” in state law.
Similarly, in Virginia, a law passed last year requires Dominion Energy Virginia to prioritize hiring local workers from historically disadvantaged communities. The same law also creates a fund to enhance flood prevention, protection, and coastal resilience and a low-interest loan program to help inland and coastal communities that are subject to recurrent flooding, that would be funded by the sale of emissions allowances.
As the Senate began debate on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely leading to a final vote this weekend, Senate Republicans have attacked it as “big, wasteful, and bloated.” The version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives contains $30.5 billion in aid for public transit systems that desperately need the […]
It’s not just men in the fishing sector who are impacted by climate change, overfishing, and COVID-19 — women are too. Women like Alexia Jaurez of Sonora, Mexico, who is featured in this Environmental Defense Fund video, do the important work of monitoring the catch and the price, and most importantly determining how many more […]
Last Friday, the United States formally reentered the Paris Climate Agreement. This is undoubtedly good news but after four years of total climate inaction on the part of the Trump administration as well as other nations failing to meet their commitments, it’s more urgent than ever that the world comes together and gets it right. […]
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