Environmental Justice Legislation reported favorably from ENRA Committee

In December, the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) Committee favorably reported out two Environmental Justice bills to both chambers on Beacon Hill. S. 464, An Act Relative to environmental justice and toxics reduction in the commonwealth, filed by State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, carrying S. 453, filed by Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett. H. 4264, An Act relative to environmental justice in the Commonwealth, filed by Rep. Adrian Madaro, D-East Boston, carrying H. 761 filed by State Rep. Michelle DuBois, D-Brockton, and Liz Miranda, D- Roxbury, and H. 3922 filed by State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Woods Hole and State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro was sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
“I am excited that the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture acted to give these important bills favorable reports, and grateful to Chairs Gobi and Pignatelli,” said Senator Eldridge. “These bills would give a voice to the people in communities most affected by hazardous waste sites, municipal landfills, incinerators, and other harmful facilities. The tireless efforts of environmental advocacy groups and the EJ coalitions throughout the state led to the bill receiving a favorable recommendation.”
“This favorable report brings environmental justice protections one step closer to being codified into law,” said Rep. Madaro. “For too many years environmental justice communities have had to bear the brunt of environmental burdens across our state. This bill empowers our communities and gives neighbors a voice on projects that disproportionately affect them the most. Thank you to the countless environmental activists and groups in the environmental justice coalition for all of your hard work and advocacy. I’m grateful to Chairs Gobi and Pignatelli and the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture for giving these bills their support.”
S.464 and H. 4264 would codify environmental justice policy and define “Environmental Justice” and “Environmental Justice Populations” to protect all people (regardless of race, income, national origin or English language proficiency) from pollution and environmental discrimination. They would allow the public’s contribution to influence the regulatory agency’s decision; consider community concerns in the decision-making process; and have decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected. These bills would establish an Environmental Justice Advisory Council to make sure that policies crafted by the executive branch are informed by sound environmental and public health sciences. It would direct the EEA to maximize opportunities for public consultation and involvement of the interested and affected persons, in these crafted policies and proposed projects.
“Residents of Brockton know what environmental justice (EJ) is and it’s symbolized by the red emergency inhaler they or loved one must carry with them everywhere,” said Representative Dubois. “Brockton consistently has the highest rate of kids hospitalized due to asthma each year. These negative health consequences and others are directly connected to the lack of environmental protections given to places where low-income people and communities of color live, which makes these areas targets for the siting of dirt power plants, incinerators, and other toxic industries.”
“There is no climate fight without the environmental justice fight,” said Representative Miranda. “The greatest measure of toxicity in a community directly correlates to race. Everyone has the right to enjoy a clean, safe, and healthy environment- but low-income communities and communities of color are most likely to be in the shadows of dirty power plants, busy polluting highways, and lead-filled lots. As the State Representative of one of the most underserved and environmentally unjust communities in the Commonwealth, I know we deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and play on clean soil. This is why I am so proud of our EJ legislation. It will save lives.”
“As a legislator representing multiple EJ communities, I have unfortunately seen firsthand how often our most vulnerable populations bear the greatest burden of environmentally harmful project and decisions made by those in positions of power,” said Senator DiDomenico. “I am very proud to be a part of these landmark bills prioritizing EJ communities and to play a role in pursuit of finally getting this important conversation into law.”
Working class, low income and communities of color bear an enormous, unequal burden of pollution and environmental degradation within the commonwealth. These bills would give the people most affected the opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that would affect their environment and/or health. Each bill is now in the Senate or House Committee on Ways and Means.

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