July 26, 2022
The Honorable Raul Grijalva The Honorable Bruce Westerman
Chairman Ranking Member
Natural Resources Committee Natural Resources Committee
United States House of Representatives United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Grijalva and Ranking Member Westerman:
As members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum, we are writing in strong support of the Environmental Justice for All Act (H.R. 2021). Our communities face a legacy of pollution and are already confronting the worst impacts of climate change and need comprehensive legislation like the Environmental Justice for All Act. The Environmental Justice for All Act addresses systemic barriers – including redlining, intentional disinvestment, and unregulated pollution–that have had devastating impacts on communities of color and low-income areas.
The Environmental Justice Leadership Forum is a national coalition of 50 community-based organizations in 22 states that work to ensure a diverse grassroots perspective is present in federal, state, and local policy decisions. Members are based in red, blue, and swing states including those in the Appalachia, Deep South, Northwest, Midwest, Northeast, and Southwest regions and represent Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income white communities in large, midsize, and small cities.
The Environmental Justice for All Act is one of the most comprehensive federal environmental justice bills with robust support from environmental justice communities. Wide reaching support from grassroots organizations comes from the intentionality in which the bill was created. The foundation of the Environmental Justice for All Act is based on the Jemez principles of democratic organizing, which many environmental justice communities use in their own organizing practices. The bill has gone through multiple rounds of public input, including most recently a series of stops through environmental justice communities including New York City, Detroit, Tucson, Southeastern Louisiana, Richmond, Southern California, and a virtual roundtable with Tribal leaders. We are appreciative of the opportunity to meet with Chair Grijalva and other elected officials during these tour stops and have expressed our community concerns and suggestions for improving the bill.
Our communities have been intentionally excluded and misrepresented in ongoing developments that impact our health and wellbeing, including but not limited to the development of highways, and the siting of industrial facilities. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is intended to allow for environmental review and public engagement on major developments. Although NEPA exists, it frequently does not work to serve the needs of environmental justice communities and over the past few years has undergone multiple rollbacks that have weakened the NEPA process further. We are supportive of updates to the NEPA sections of the bill that include rescinding waivers and exemptions, codification of cumulative impacts in the NEPA process, and requiring agencies to select projects that are protective to environmental justice communities.
Beyond NEPA, we would like to highlight two other key provisions in the Environmental Justice for All Act that are critical to environmental justice communities. The Environmental Justice for All Act requires the consideration of cumulative impacts for federal permitting and allows for disproportionate environmental burdens to be tried as Civil Rights violations. Cumulative impacts have been advocated on the state and local level, including but not limited to New York, New Jersey and Chicago. Environmental justice communities everywhere need to be protected and relieved from the constant burden of fronting our nation’s pollution. Environmental justice communities are classified as communities of color and/ or low-income. The intentional siting of these facilities in these politically vulnerable and underrepresented communities infringes upon our ability to live.
We write in strong support of the Environmental Justice for All Act and hope that following mark-up, the bill goes to a vote on the House floor.
Coalition of Community Organizers
Duwamish River Community Coalition (WA State) Seattle
Indigenous Environmental Network
People for Community Recovery
People Organized In Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER)
South Bronx Unite
Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS)
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
West Atlanta Watershed
West End Revitalization Association (WERA)