Sen. Cory Booker introduced bicameral legislation to address the overwhelming proximity of pollution sites to minority and low-income communities.
The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act, sponsored by Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM) in the House of Representatives, calls for $100 billion to be invested to clean up legacy pollution, along with prohibiting major source air pollution permits in vulnerable communities. Funding will be used to address access to clean water and eliminate exposure to lead paint.
“In our nation, the biggest determining factor of whether you live near toxic pollution, whether you drink contaminated water, or whether you breathe dirty air is the color of your skin and your economic status,” said Booker. “That’s wrong, and it’s time to make it right.”
African Americans at Greater Risk
Booker and Haaland state that data shows communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities are more likely to be impacted by high levels of air pollution, contaminated drinking water, and proximity to toxic waste sites.
Statistics show that African Americans are 54% more likely in area of heavy air pollution, and are three times more likely to die prematurely from exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution.
“In order for communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities to thrive, this legacy of pollution must be eliminated,” said Booker. “The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act will be a big step forward in continuing the fight for true equality and addressing environmental injustices in our country.”
Lack of Access to Clean Water
This legislation takes aim at improving access to basic resources such as clean water and plumbing as well as reducing lead exposure.
“Our communities deserve clean water, land and air, but polluters and lack of oversight have left many families to suffer from illness and risks caused by environmental hazards for generations,” said Haaland. “We must honor the earth and protect our resources so everyone’s quality of life is better.”
Data has also showed that black children are three times more likely to have unsafe blood lead levels, compared to white children.
Booker has introduced and supported multiple pieces of legislation focused on providing legal protection to those impacted by environmental injustices. He spoke recently at the signing of environmental justice legislation by Gov. Phil Murphy in which New Jersey became the first state in the country to require mandatory permit denials if an analysis determines a new facility will have a disproportionately negative effect on communities where nearly half of households are defined low income or minority.
“In communities like Newark, we suffer from cumulative and adverse harms caused by high levels of air pollution each and every day,” said Kim Gaddy, environmental justice organizer, New Jersey Clean Water Action.
Under this new proposed legislation, funds would be used to clean up dangerous toxic sites; clean up lead-based paint and other housing-related health and safety hazards; and replace lead drinking water service lines.
“We need solutions as big as the problems we face — and this bill will rightly confront the environmental injustices plaguing communities of color and neighborhoods our leaders have treated as national sacrifice zones,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President, National Wildlife Federation.