NEW YORK, NY – After a year of pushback and advocacy done by Environmental and Climate justice groups including the WE ACT for Environmental Justice and the Environmental Justice Forum, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally agreed to issue guidance on incorporating environmental justice into the clean power plan.
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) aims to reduce US carbon emissions to 30% by 2030. While many have hailed President Obama and the EPA for their “bold” action, WE ACT has led the pack of Environmental Justice groups who have long found the plan problematic because of it’s lack of engagement on low and medium income communities of color, who may face higher concentration of pollution in their communities from this plan. Despite several request, President Obama and the EPA didn’t offer any insight on whether they would make adjustments to consider these groups. Meanwhile WE ACT and others remained active, sending a petition with over 2,000 signatures and expressing concern with the plan and advocating on behalf of EJ communities at public hearings and events.
Jalonne White-Newsome, Director of Federal Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, was happy to receive this news from the EPA but also warned of caution, saying;
“The EPA’s decision to include guidance for addressing Environmental Justice Concerns in their Clean Power Plan comes as a very welcomed decision, but to mention that you are going to do something is only half the battle. We must still see what this will look like, and if it will truly be effective for the communities we work in. “
While climate change is an issue that affects everyone, low and medium income communities of color are usually hit the hardest. In a study done in California from May 1999- September of 2003, researchers found that “for every 10°F (5.6°C) increase in temperature, the percentage of cardiovascular deaths increased by 2.6 percent.” The risk was even higher for the elderly (65 and older), infants, and African Americans. The EPA’s forthcoming EJ guiding document represents the first time the agency has moved towards enshrining EJ protections in the CPP. The April 2nd announcement is a big victory for WE ACT and its coalition partners in the EJ forum.