July 16, 2020
Contact: Dana Johnson, dana@weact.org, 773-495-1677

WASHINGTON, DC – This week former Vice President Joe Biden released the “Build Back Better Plan” in response to the economic and climate crises. WE ACT for Environmental Justice co-founder and executive director, Peggy Shepard, reviewed the plan and provided the following statement that includes recommendations for deepening the efficacy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

“It is a well-documented fact that the climate crisis is most deeply felt in environmental justice communities – places where people of color and those of low-income reside. We need bold ideas and comprehensive plans that will address the legacy of environmental harms that persist where we live, play, and work and that contribute to poor health outcomes, economic instability, and climate fragility. This is our time to act and the infrastructure, transit, power sector, buildings and conservation ideas offered in the ‘Build Back Better Plan’ are a significant first step for responding to the ambivalence and structural racism that is prolonging the climate crisis.

Also, I was the first woman to Chair the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) to the Environmental Protection Agency. During my tenure as Chair, which lasted from 2001-2003, I witnessed a disregard of Title VI administrative complaints and a lack of accountability and reporting on the agency’s progress in addressing environmental degradation in our communities. We must restore and strengthen accountability, compliance and reporting within the EPA by:

  • Adopting the mandate for a report card that tracks the agency’s progress in achieving its environmental justice goals as framed in the Build Better Back Plan.
  • Finalizing cumulative impacts guidance developed several years ago and detail methodologies for states to conduct cumulative impacts assessments.
  • Re-organizing to have the Office of Environmental Justice sit within the Office of Environmental Compliance, hire an experienced and respected Director to lead the department, and increase the area budget to at least $20 million.
  • Committing to a real partnership with NEJAC by advancing the recommendations provided by the advisory group and continuously assessing the relationship via the report card.
  • Earmarking funds for grants that support academic and environmental justice advocacy partnerships that lead to science-based and data-driven solutions to environmental justice issues.

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram.

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