Virginia would create a director of environmental justice position at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) under budget amendment item 380 #1h introduced by Del. Jay Jones during Virginia’s ongoing special legislative session.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued the following statement.
“A new leadership position at DEQ focused on environmental equity and justice is the only way to keep initial steps towards environmental justice from grinding to a halt. For far too long, people of color in Virginia have disproportionately experienced health problems from water and air pollution. Industrial facilities have long been located in communities of color. These same communities are now among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. More urgently than ever, we must ensure the concerns of the most vulnerable are heard and prevent disproportionate health issues from pollution.
“Virginia is starting to take steps towards environmental justice, due especially to the groundbreaking work of legislators and Governor Northam in the 2020 General Assembly Session. Establishing a permanent environmental justice council and requiring DEQ to incorporate environmental justice considerations into its work are notable examples.
“Virginia must now follow through and turn this legislation into action. A leadership position at DEQ dedicated to implementing environmental justice programs will ensure progress. This is an opportunity for Virginia to lead the way on environmental justice at the state level.
“By approving this budget amendment and continuing robust investments in clean water programs that reduce pollution from agriculture, stormwater, and wastewater treatment plants, legislators this special session can ensure a better, healthier, and more equitable future for all Virginians.”