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Throughout this series, we’ve talked about the many aspects of the CLEAN Future Act: Power, Infrastructure, Industry, and Transportation. In this blog, we’ll tackle the next section of CLEAN: Environmental Justice.
What is Environmental Justice?
“Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”
The EPA determines fair treatment as no groups of people will share negative environmental consequences that come from governmental, industrial or commercial pollution. This allows U.S. citizens to have a right to:
- Participate in decisions that would affect their community’s health
- Provide public contribution to influence an outcome
- Air grievances within the decision-making process
The CLEAN Future Act aims to assist the country by empowering community voices, restore regulatory protections and install a climate public health protection plan.
How does The CLEAN Future Act empower community voices for environmental justice?
The bill aims to take action to protect historical and underrepresented land and communities from climate change and toxic exposures. Using measures developed by Republican Raul Ruiz and signed by President Clinton back in 1994, the order establishes a group bent on invoking environmental justice and require federal agencies to adopt more environmental justice measures in their missions.
How about state measures for environmental justice?
The CLEAN Future Act aims to charge states to consider environmental justice motions when in the process of approving state plans for clean air and disposal of hazardous waste. This is done so states have a better idea of how they can address exposures of toxic chemicals in various communities. It also charges states to provide provisions to protect communities in the event of extreme weather, such as if a storm or hurricane caused a leak in an oil reserve or chemical factory. The EPA would have to claim financial responsibility to whatever happens to communities because of environmental ruin.
By amending the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund), polluters are liable after events that are the cause of climate change.
What else does the CLEAN Future Act provide for environmental justice?
CLEAN provides assistance grants to support and empower communities. These grants allow communities to receive assistance to participate in decision-making process regarding the consequences of waste disposal in neighborhoods. Finally, this bill will help protect Americans from the hazardous effects of pollutants caused by climate change. The CLEAN Future Act would charge the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a strategy plan so health plans are prepared in events caused by climate change.
Photo by Sora Simazaki from pexels.com
Are these goals achievable for environmental justice?
With the current political climate in the U.S., I think it’s an achievable goal… for the middle- and upper-class communities. The U.S government, when it comes to dividing resources among the population, has historically given communities of color and those that are underrepresented the stiff arm. This is due in large part to decades of institutionalized racism and bigotry that has prevented these communities to flourish.
People think environmental justice is looking out for the polar bears up north, its to look out for our people back home.
Environmental racism is a real thing. From events like Cancer Alley in Louisiana to Uniontown Alabama, where Tennessee decided to dump 4 million cubic yards of charcoal ash into the predominately black community. Even though CLEAN wants to enforce CERCLA, it didn’t help Uniontown in this instance because it was a black neighborhood. It’s not climate related, but when the coronavirus outbreak started in Kirkland, Washington, officials thought it would it would be a smart idea to move the affected to White Center, a low-income neighborhood further south.
Would elected officials listen to environmental justice?
With elected officials in the pockets of climate change deniers and those in prominent positions in the oil industry and manufacturing, it’ll be very difficult to get accountability for catastrophes that are the result of climate change or poor environmental control. I believe this excerpt from an article in Time says it best:
These dynamics are nothing new. For decades, environmental-justice advocates in the U.S. have worked to bring attention to the heightened environmental risks faced by communities of color: higher levels of lead exposure, higher risks of facing catastrophic flooding, and poorer air quality, to name just a few. But progress has been slow on the national stage as the most powerful groups fighting for environmental rules, not to mention government leaders, have largely ignored them.
It all depends on how much attention climate change and environmental activism can get from each form of government. One can only hope that the CLEAN Future Act isn’t filled to the brim with loopholes on how the government can screw underprivileged communities from staying healthy and productive.
Next week we’ll discuss super pollutants, a topic that the CLEAN Future Act hopes to fix and is a hot topic in environmental activism.
Check out these links below if you want to learn more about environmental justice