Green Justice Coalition, Legislators call for Environmental Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Media Contact:

Richard Juang, Alternatives for Community and Environment, 617-861-1401, Richard@ace-ej.org

Joel Wool, Clean Water Action, 978-697-0361, jwool@cleanwater.org

Green Justice Coalition, Legislators call for Environmental Justice

Massachusetts has fallen down on responsibility
to protect communities from pollution

(BOSTON, MA—October 17, 2017) The Green Justice Coalition (GJC), a diverse multi-stakeholder convening of advocates across the state, is pushing for long-awaited action on environmental justice (EJ). Today, after years of delay on state policies protecting low-income communities and communities of color, under multiple administrations, GJC members testified at the MA Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on the Environmental Justice Act (H2913/S426).

The EJ Act would create legal protections from pollution and reinvestment opportunities for low-income communities and communities of color. It would also codify policies that Massachusetts is supposed to be implementing under Executive Order 552, issued under Governor Patrick and the Environmental Justice Policy, issued originally in 2002 and updated under Governor Baker. Despite pronouncements across bipartisan administrations, there has been little action to advance environmental justice.

“EO 552 is valid and still in effect. What we see today, and what the EJ Act remedies, is the near-complete abdication of responsibility for environmental justice on the part of regulatory agencies,” noted Richard Juang, Staff Attorney for Alternatives for Community and Environment.

“It is a great injustice that throughout history, low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and immigrant communities have disproportionately bared the burden for high-pollution industries,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “I filed the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Act to make sure that all residents of the Commonwealth can have access to clean air, land, water, and lead a healthy life regardless of their income or background.”

“Annually, Brockton has some of the highest asthma hospitalization rates for children in the State.  For so many of my constituents, Environmental Justice (EJ) means a red inhaler to help them breath,” said Representative Michelle Dubois (D-Brockton). “Massachusetts is not doing enough to protect residents who are overburdened by pollution in their urban communities. The EJ Act that I filed will ensure equitable participation and protection across the Commonwealth.”

“We need to make ‘environmental justice’ more than just a feel good concept.  Right now, as a result of the Executive Order, agencies are encouraged, but not required, to implement EJ policies.  By codifying environmental justice into our general laws, less affluent communities will be on a level playing field as those communities that are not overburdened with pollutants,” said Representative RoseLee Vincent, Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee of Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (D-Revere).  “As the representative whose district includes areas designated by the Commonwealth as neighborhoods of environmental justice, I am proud to joint sponsor this legislation.”

"Residents of Chelsea continue to battle one dangerous polluting proposal after another, from power plants to trains shipping volatile explosive material," said Maria Belen Power, Chelsea Resident and Associate Executive Director of GreenRoots, "Our community is strong and have achieved numerous victories for our people, but it should not have to be this hard to ensure good public health, adequate quality of life and equal access to environmental benefits for our community. We want Massachusetts to cut off these polluting proposals at the pass." 

 

“We have done a good job of documenting health inequality in Massachusetts,” said Madeleine Scammell, Associate Professor of Public Health at Boston University and member of the Chelsea Board of Health, “We’ve done a terrible job of preventing it. I’d like to spend the second half of my career stopping environmental injustice.”