The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) applauded today’s 26-21 vote in the House Natural Resources Committee to approve the Environmental Justice for All Act and called on Congress to pass this landmark legislation without delay.
Introduced in March 2021, “EJ for All” would empower communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal or indigenous communities overburdened with harmful pollution to protect and enforce their rights to a clean environment, good health, access to grant funding, and input into federal permitting decisions.
The bill is championed by House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.). It was drafted with extensive input from advocates and affected communities across the country. Grijalva and McEachin held a five-city listening tour this year to gather comments that wrapped on July 16 in Richmond.
In the Bay watershed and around the country, marginalized communities are more likely to experience environmental degradation and health problems from facilities such as natural gas pipelines, trash incinerators, and overflowing combined sewer systems.
The legacy of racist housing policies compounds the problem by leaving communities in cities like Baltimore, Harrisburg, and Richmond more vulnerable to excess heat, intense storms, frequent flooding, and other hazards exacerbated by the effects of climate change.
EJ for All would prohibit discrimination that occurs when communities experience disproportionate impacts, such as elevated health risks, from pollution or other environmental degradation based on their race, color, or national origin. As part of its effort to create an effective legal framework to tackle environmental injustice, the bill would allow individuals or communities that face such discrimination to take legal action.
The bill would require federal agencies to provide early and meaningful opportunities for environmental justice communities to be involved in the permitting process for polluting projects that would affect them. It also would require federal agencies to consider the cumulative impacts of permitting decisions on a community’s local environment and the health of area residents.
After the markup, CBF Federal Legislative and Policy Attorney Keisha Sedlacek issued the following statement:
“All people have the right to clean air, clean water, and an enriching natural environment. Marginalized communities in the Bay watershed and nationwide that are denied those rights deserve the legal tools to ensure those rights are enforced and to seek remedies when they are not.
“The Environmental Justice for All Act has taken a welcome and long overdue step toward becoming law. CBF congratulates House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Don McEachin (D-Va.) for advancing this landmark legislation after many years of listening sessions, congressional hearings, and building support among your colleagues.
“CBF urges House leaders to swiftly pass this bill and Senate leaders to follow suit. To achieve environmental justice for all in the future, we must move this legislation forward without delay.”