The Honorable Joseph R. Biden President of the United States 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Hakeem Jeffries House Minority Leader
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Chuck Schumer Senate Majority Leader
322 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
Dear Mr. President, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader Jeffries,
As extremist Republican House members drive the government towards an unnecessary and dangerous shutdown, we, the undersigned Environmental Justice organizations from across the country, urge you to pass a clean appropriations bill that fully funds the government and to vigorously fight against any effort to undo the hard-won protections and investments in environmental justice communities.
In May, we were dismayed by the outcome of the deal that was made with House Republicans to lift the debt ceiling. There are parts of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 that prioritized polluters over people and sent a message that extremism, not data, science or the best interests of marginalized Americans, are driving policy by forcing the permitting of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, furthering the erosion of the National Environmental Policy Act, and restricting SNAP eligibility for Americans facing financial hardship. Now, as House Republicans push us toward another standoff and a possible financial crisis, we want to be unequivocally clear that our communities cannot be sacrificed again. Our health, safety, and security cannot be up for debate, and the rights and protections afforded to environmental justice, front- and fence-line, low-wealth, and Tribal and Indigenous communities must not be bargaining chips.
We are counting on you to firmly reject any deal that:
- Claws back environmental justice investments passed in the Inflation Reduction Act; ● Weakens efforts to implement the Justice40 Initiative or Executive Order 14096; ● Guts NEPA and the Clean Air and Clean Water acts;
- Rolls Back the critical regulations that agencies, such as the EPA, have updated or are working to finalize;
- Supports so called “permit reforms” that belies fossil fuel interests, undercuts community engagement, or slows down the transition to renewable energy;
- Includes anti-immigration, anti-abortion, and anti-LBGTQ+ riders as well as racist attacks; and
- Facilitates the build out of fossil fuels, such as changes to accelerate liquified natural gas buildout.
While we strongly oppose any deal that endangers environmental justice communities and our allies, we also want to be clear that there are real impacts on our communities during a government shutdown. We request that the Administration requires agencies to include actionable plans on how they will protect vulnerable communities in each agency contingency plan. In particular, we are concerned about EPA ceasing Civil enforcement inspections, which ensure polluting facilities’ compliance with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, among others. Many of our communities are fenceline to polluting facilities and rely on the government to protect them from harmful emissions. We know a shutdown would delay or worsen backlogs in the rollout and development of critical programs like Superfund cleanup, the IRA’s Climate and Environmental Justice Block Grants, and updated regulations.
In addition, with communities across the country still recovering from an unprecedented year of natural disasters, we cannot risk depletion of FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. As a result of dwindling funds, FEMA has already paused assistance on over 1,000 rebuilding projects in the last month.1 We know Tribal Nations, Indigenous and communities of color are hit first and worst by climate change and want to ensure everything possible is done to help these communities recover from the devastating, unjust impacts of climate change. We trust your leadership to ensure a government shutdown resolves swiftly while mitigating harms to our communities. However, ending the shut down cannot, once again, leave our communities bearing the brunt of the burden.
The second principle of Environmental Justice affirms: “Environmental justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.”2 We unequivocally uphold this principle and implore you to the Biden Administration and Congress to stand by this and reject any anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-abortion poison pills. These redlines are by no means exhaustive; however, we hope they guide Congress and the Administration in any potential negotiations.
1 Frank, T. (2023, September 20). FEMA Needs More Money to Keep Up with Disasters. Instead It Faces a Potential Government Shutdown. E&E News.
2 The Principles of Environmental Justice (EJ) https://www.weact.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/ejprinciples.pdf
7 Directions of Service
Alaska Community Action on Toxics
Better Brazoria: Clean Air & Water
Black Millennials 4 Flint
Center for Biological Diversity
Coalition of Community Organizations
Community In-power & Development Association Inc.
Duwamish River Community Coalition
Environmental Justice Network
Green Door Initiative
Mi Familia Vota
Native Organizers Alliance
NC Climate Justice Collective
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR)
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
West End Revitalization Association
Womxn From The Mountain
John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation Shalanda Young, Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget