August 12, 2020

Udall, Harris Introduce Environmental Justice for All Act

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, joined U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) to introduce the comprehensive environmental justice legislation in the U.S. Senate to achieve health equity and climate justice for all, particularly underserved communities and communities of color.

As the country continues a national reckoning on race, the Environmental Justice for All Act incorporates access to clean water, air and a healthy environment into the wider framework of racial and social justice. Among other important provisions, the legislation would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to incorporate environmental equity, protecting communities of color from commercial or municipal projects that disproportionately affect them and empowering them with a role in the public process.

“Marginalized communities—communities of color, low-income communities and Native communities—bear the worst consequences of environmental destruction often caused by the rich and powerful,” Udall said. “Native lands have been desecrated for industry profits, while air, water and toxics pollution caused by big corporations disproportionately affects low-income communities. It’s up to all of us to fight for environmental laws and policies that address these issues and uplift communities historically left behind. I am proud to sponsor this legislation to further commit to environmental action that centers environmental justice.”

As ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, Udall secured a 50 percent, $3.3 million, increase in funding for the agency’s environmental justice office for the current fiscal year 2020. As Congress works on fiscal year 2021 funding bills, he continues to advocate for additional investments within EPA to ensure that environmental justice communities have equal access to safe drinking water, clean air, and cleanups of toxic waste.

Specifically, the Environmental Justice for All Act:

- Amends and Strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination based on disparate impacts and overturns Alexander v. Sandoval, a Supreme Court decision that prevents private lawsuits to address policies that have a disparate impact on communities based on their race, color and national origin.

- Requires the Consideration of Cumulative Impacts: Explicitly adds cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, to address the concentration of pollution in minority and low-income communities.

- 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, as opposed to the recent Trump Administration actions to weaken this bedrock environmental law.

- Asserts Health Equity: Funds programs to study potentially harmful consumer 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 additional federal 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.

The text of the Environmental Justice for All Act can be found HERE.

A one-page summary of the Environmental Justice for All Act can be found HERE.