Rep. McEachin, Chair Grijalva Reintroduce Environmental Justice for All Act –Widely Supported Effort Comes as Congress Eyes New Investments

March 18, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON –– Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) reintroduced their landmark Environmental Justice for All Act today, supported by a wide array of grassroots groups and environmental advocates from across the country. The bill comes as Capitol Hill and the Biden administration prepare what will likely be a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure package with significant potential to fund environmental justice priorities.

 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), co-founder of the Environmental Justice Caucus, is introducing the companion bill in the Senate today. You can watch and share a video of the three lawmakers and grassroots supporters describing the bill and urging support for the effort here and here.

 

The House bill’s original cosponsors include Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Kaiali’i (Kai) Kahele (D-Hawaii), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.).

 

Since first introducing the bill on Feb. 27, 2020, McEachin and Grijalva have spent the past year leading a series of roundtables to build public awareness and hear from advocates and stakeholders around the country about how the bill would benefit their communities. The bill was originally written through an innovative process of gathering public feedback to craft the legislation.

 

Newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland was an original cosponsor of the Environmental Justice for All Act in the last Congress, and has been supportive of the bill and its principles throughout her time in Congress. 

 

“Access to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment should not be a luxury. Yet, every day, frontline and fenceline communities are exposed to the harmful effects of toxic environmental pollutants and hazards, without the tools to protect themselves and their families,” said McEachin. “Today, with the reintroduction of the Environmental Justice for All Act, we take a meaningful step to ameliorate these wrongs. Years ago, grounded in a shared hope and optimism for a future that empowers communities, we began the process to create this legislation, and while the journey toward justice may be long, we are making progress. I am proud to stand along environmental justice communities, Chair Grijalva and Senator Duckworth to introduce this landmark legislation that was crafted by the people to help achieve environmental justice for all.”

 

“With new leadership in Congress and the White House, we’re in a window of opportunity to save lives and establish environmental justice that the country can’t afford to miss,” said Grijalva. “Today is the first step in pushing this bill and the principles behind it as far as they can go in our federal government. For too long, low-income communities, tribal and indigenous communities, and communities of color have been shut out of the decision-making process and left without the tools to fight back when big corporations set up shop in their back yards. As always, I’m grateful for the community members who trusted us and engaged with us throughout this process, and for my partners Congressman McEachin and Senator Duckworth. President Biden understands the need for this legislation, and we’re going to do all we can to ensure environmental justice for all.”

 

“In order for our nation to emerge from this deadly pandemic stronger than we were before, we must confront the fact that communities of color face public health challenges—which also make them more susceptible to the effects of the deadly COVID-19 virus—at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to be introducing this vital legislation because it would go a long way toward making real every American’s right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land—regardless of their ZIP code, the size of their wallet or the color of their skin.”

 

Among other features, the Environmental Justice for All Act:

 

  • creates a Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund – paid for through new fees on oil, gas and coal companies – to support communities and workers as they transition away from greenhouse gas-dependent economies;
  • requires federal agencies to consider cumulative health impacts under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act in making permitting decisions and provides greater public health protections for vulnerable communities;
  • strengthens the Civil Rights Act and reaffirms that private citizens and organizations facing disparate impact discrimination can seek legal remedies, overturning the Alexander v. Sandoval ruling; and
  • provides $75 million in annual grants for research and program development to reduce health disparities and improve public health in environmental justice communities.

 

A fact sheet on the legislation is at https://naturalresources.house.gov/download/environmental-justice-for-all-act-2021-factsheet

 

Grijalva and McEachin held a daylong convening on environmental justice at the U.S. Capitol on June 26, 2019, and have continued to host regular discussions of the Environmental Justice Working Group, an alliance of stakeholders that helped craft the Environmental Justice for All Act from its inception. The bill includes issues in the Natural Resources Committee’s jurisdiction, including provisions to strengthen environmental justice community input opportunities under the National Environmental Policy Act.

 

The newly introduced legislation enjoys enthusiastic support from environmental justice and conservation groups. 

 

Statements of Support

 

“Our affiliates are excited to know the landmark legislation known as the ‘Peoples Bill’ to fenceline and frontline communities is being reintroduced in such a profound way! This is legislation that our affiliates see themselves in. We do believe this legislation will provide the legislative remedy and redress environmental justice communities and voters across this nation have been demanding for decades.” – Michele Roberts, national co-coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform

 

“Since its original introduction in the 116th Congress, WE ACT has supported the Environmental Justice for All Act. It is a comprehensive bill that reflects several years of engagement with environmental justice leaders, lawyers, and grassroots community activists. We appreciate the leadership of both Chairman Raul Grijalva and Congressman Donald McEachin. Their commitment to meaningful engagement and outreach is a model that should be replicated in all legislation. WE ACT will continue to work with both Chairman Raul Grijalva and Congressman Donald McEachin to pass EJ for ALL. We have a unique opportunity in this Congress to move the environmental justice movement forward. The Biden Administration's commitment to environmental justice will allow us to, as the President often says, Build Back Better. My staff in the DC has made increasing the congressional support for EJ for All a top priority. There can be no climate justice without environmental justice. EJ for All will provide the legislative protection that we have been demanding for decades. We must pass EJ for All Now.” – Peggy Shepard

co-founder and executive director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice

 

“The Indigenous Environmental Network supports the Environmental Justice for All Act. Having been working for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and for environmental and economic justice for 31 years, I see this legislation strengthening the U.S. trust responsibilities to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, our frontline communities and Alaska Native villages with special attention on environmental protection and environmental health from an environmental justice and rights-based framework. Ensuring robust tribal engagement in the NEPA process hopefully will establish federal standards and procedural requirements to secure the standards of Free, Prior and Informed Consent as a meaningful policy definition of consultation with tribes.” – Tom BK Goldtooth, executive director, Indigenous Environmental Network

 

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