At the end of July, East Boston State Rep. Adrian Madaro rose in House Chambers and introduced an amendment to the state’s bill, An Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth.
After Speaker Robert DeLeo accepted the amendment, Rep. Madaro gave a nearly eight minute impassioned speech about the need for environmental justice not only in his home community of Eastie but throughout the state.
“Our planet is now facing a reckoning for decades of burning fossil fuels, but the burden of these fumes has been borne by Environmental Justice communities from the beginning,” said Madaro. “For too long we have let low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollutants and environmental hazards, while excluding them from the decision-making process affecting their neighborhoods. The provisions in this amendment are the first step in a long overdue process to ensure environmental equity and finally recognize environmental justice and Environmental Justice communities into state law.”
According to Madaro’s amendment, which passed the House and is now in conference committee, it once and for all sets criteria of what defines an environmental justice community based on race, income, and language-proficiency criteria. Madaro’s amendment would give community members a much more meaningful role in the decision-making process about new projects that impact the environment and quality of life for thousands living here.
One key point of Rep. Madaro’s amendment is something called cumulative impact rule. The cumulative impact rule must take into consideration environmental impacts new projects may have when weighted cumulatively with past projects that bear environmental burdens on Eastie and other Environmental Justice Communities.
Madaro pointed to Logan Airport growth and expansion and how many environmental impact statements are weighed apart from past projects that are already causing a burden environmentally.
“The Massachusetts’ Constitution states that ‘the people shall have the right to clean air and water, freedom from excessive and unnecessary noise, and the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic qualities of their environment,’” said Madaro. “Adoption of this amendment brings us one step closer to fulfilling that promise. This amendment defines environmental justice in state law for the first time, strengthens the public process for the siting of environmental burdens, and provides additional protections to impacted communities. East Boston struggles daily with pollution and environmental hazards, and this amendment is an important step toward a cleaner and safer environment. I’m so grateful to be advocating for the First Suffolk district and I am committed to uplifting communities like ours that are disproportionately harmed by environmental burdens.”