ACE Blog

A Historic Moment for the Environment and Racial Justice

December 6, 2014

By Dr. Daniel Faber, Staci Rubin, Esq., and Veronica Eady, Esq. of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Alliance

Governor Patrick signs an Executive Order on Environmental Justice

As demonstrated by the events following the grand jury decisions regarding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of the police, racial inequality in America is a cancer. But there is some good news. On November 25, Governor Deval L. Patrick signed a landmark Executive Order on Environmental Justice that requires state agencies to consider the environmental impacts of their actions on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. While this action will not result in immediate healing from a long history of racism, the Commonwealth just took one step toward addressing the legacy of racial injustice. Governor Patrick and his administration deserve congratulations for this historic act.

Environmental justice (EJ) populations reside in 137 of the Commonwealth's 351 municipalities. For too long, residents in these communities have lived with substantially greater risk of exposure to environmental health hazards than the general citizenry. The people of Chelsea, Roxbury, Brockton, New Bedford, Lawrence, Springfield, and other communities must deal daily with the dumping of garbage and chemical waste on vacant lots; toxic air and water contamination from dirty industry, incinerators, and power plants; highly polluting roadways and airports; landfills and trash transfer stations; and/or inadequate public transportation and lack of green space and parks.

A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that Boston has the fourth worse racial disparities of any city in the country with respect to public exposure to nitrogen dioxide, an air pollutant linked to asthma and heart disease. No wonder communities of color such as Dorchester and Roxbury have the highest rates of childhood asthma and emergency room visits in the Commonwealth.

Governor signs Executive Order on Environmental Justice

November 25, 2014

Governor Patrick signs an Executive Order on Environmental Justice

Today, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law an Executive Order on Environmental Justice that directs all state agencies to devote resources to protect the health, safety and environment for the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth.

He was joined by our Massachusetts Environmental Justice Alliance (MA EJ Alliance), comprised of environmental and social justice organizing and grassroots groups from across the state.

Vote today - NO on one, YES on the rest!

Vote NO on Question 1 - we need to invest in and improve public transit!November 4, 2014

It's Election Day - don't forget to vote, if you haven't already! The choices we make on our ballot will have long-lasting ramifications on our work for environmental justice.

Here are some resources to read and share on the four ballot questions:

Question 1
Please vote NO on Question 1!

Youth, seniors and community members fought hard to pass the Gas Tax Bill, which provides critical funding for our roads, bridges and the MBTA.

If Question 1 passes, we will lose millions of dollars for the maintenance and expansion of public transit in our region, not to mention funds for road repairs or to fix the 53 percent of Massachusetts bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Youth Summit brings hundreds together to build, learn

August 14, 2014

Hundreds of youth attended the summit

On July 31, over 200 young people gathered at our 18th annual Youth Summit at 1199 SEIU in Dorchester. Organized by youth in our Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Program (REEP), this year’s summit was named Youth Revolt Roulette 2: Check it or change it.

Young people from Boston, Cambridge, Worcester and Providence attended the all-day summit, which featured youth-led workshops, art projects, an open mic and a performance by Project HIP-HOP.

In addition to REEP and our Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition, Bikes Not Bombs, Youth Force, Youth Jobs Coalition and Youth Against Mass Incarceration led workshops on topics from organizing methods and theory of change to community resiliency and fighting racism, sexism and homophobia. Outside activities included dancing, T-shirt painting, button-making and sports.

The day of idea exchanges and movement building was devoted to helping youth develop their skills and abilities to become positive agents of change in our communities.

REEP youth organizers visit Mississippi and Detroit

August 14, 2014

REEP speaking on Grow or Die in Detroit

In June, REEP youth attended two national gatherings to share and learn with organizers from across the country—to Tougaloo, Mississippi, for the 50th Anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the Our Power conference in Detroit on youth power and environmental justice.

In Mississippi, attendees commemorated Freedom Summer by reflecting on the state of racial justice in 1964 and today. The national conference included talks from civil rights organizers including Bob Moses, a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and many others who are continuing this work. REEP organizers also participated in canvassing for the National Student Bill of Rights (NSBR), a campaign to build a unified youth vision for educational justice.

TRU launches Early Bird campaign for off-peak service

December 27, 2014 UPDATE:
Success! With your help, we secured extra early bird trips in the MBTA's fall and winter schedules on Routes 22, 23, 28 and 109, including runs before 6:00 a.m. and extra round trips. This includes an increase in the service void zone of Saturday and Sunday mornings, a pressing need of shift workers. This comes after hearing firsthand accounts from hotel and janitorial workers of packed 5:00 a.m. buses. Stay tuned as we continue this fight.

August 14, 2014

TRU members at our monthly meeting

This summer, our T Riders Union (TRU) launched a new campaign for increased early morning service in our communities. With the Early Bird campaign, TRU members are demanding more service to get workers to jobs that start before the morning rush hour. Our survey collection in the spring showed that a vast majority of riders support an increase in early morning trips.

The MBTA is already planning to increase off-peak service, which makes this a crucial moment to amplify the needs of low-income communities. The T wants to add 150 hours of service to routes outside of the morning and evening rush hours. We are asking the T to use 20 of those hours for early morning service. Early morning service means any trips between the hours of 4:30 and 6:30 a.m.

Residents secure moratorium on ethanol trains

August 14, 2014

Residents meeting with Governor Patrick

In response to resident organizing to prevent the transportation of ethanol by train through Greater Boston, Governor Deval Patrick included language in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget which guarantees ethanol trains will not be allowed in the Boston area through at least January 2017. The approval of the ethanol legislation, which was attached to the budget, cemented a significant victory for residents of Chelsea, East Boston and Revere led by the Chelsea Creek Action Group and supported by our Environmental Justice Legal Services (EJLS).

The law prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection from issuing an environmental license between now and January 1, 2017 for the development of railroad lines or facilities in Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Somerville, East Boston or the Chelsea Creek port area that connect to ethanol storage and blending facilities.

Youth action spurs MBTA and MassDOT to develop Youth Pass pilot

December 11, 2014 UPDATE:

Our Youth Pass pilot will be starting in July 2015! The MassDOT Board of Directors has approved our pilot, which is now part of the MBTA's FY2015-2016 budget. Thank you members for all your help in achieving this major victory!

August 14, 2014

Awardees at YAC's Celebration

Following our Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition’s (YAC) sit-in in June, which ended in arrests of Youth Pass supporters, the MBTA agreed to set up a working group to develop a pilot program for our Youth Pass. YAC members will participate in the project planning and research, preparing for a trial period beginning July 2015.

The formation of the working group represents a crucial shift in MassDOT’s attitude towards the Youth Pass. For the past seven years of the campaign, transportation officials have repeatedly delayed progress and refused to take the project seriously. Secretary Richard Davey would not meet with us during the sit-in, continuing to ignore the youth rider crisis. After 21 supporters were arrested outside of his office and dozens more were barred from testifying at a public hearing the following week, he and MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott finally agreed to sit down with us and fulfill a three-year old commitment to implement a pilot program.

Youth Pass sit-in participants arrested, MassDOT blocks youth from public meeting

July 7, 2014

Sitting in the hallway outside Davey's office

On June 9, 21 youth and supporters were arrested at the office of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey after holding a sit-in for an MBTA Youth Pass. After repeated delay tactics from MassDOT and MBTA officials, and receiving no response a full month after delivering our Open Letter [pdf], nearly 40 youth and supporters from our Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC) gathered in Secretary Davey’s office, asking him to fulfill his promise to implement a pilot program for the pass.

When he refused to speak with us, we sat down and announced that we would wait for his response. MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott visited to speak with us, but media were not allowed to enter the Transportation Building due to “capacity issues.” Outside, supporters rallied throughout the day and well into the evening, when the 21 people in our group who stayed were arrested.

Riders need early morning service and low-income fares

July 7, 2014

TRU surveying in Dudley Square

Over the past six weeks, our T Riders Union (TRU) has surveyed MBTA riders on transit issues and found that an overwhelming majority support increased early morning service and an income-based fare. Both initiatives would benefit low-income workers who hold night or early-morning shifts and rely on public transportation. Hundreds of responses have been collected from Dudley, Ashmont and Mattapan Stations and through our partners at SEIU 615.

Early morning service includes any bus or train trips that start before 6:00 a.m. Currently, there are a small number of buses that run early morning trips, but not nearly enough to get all transit-dependent workers to and from jobs. Over 86 percent of riders surveyed supported early morning service as an affordable way to get to work and back safely.