Lawmakers to Obama: Do More on Environmental Justice

Progressive Caucus cochairs ask the president to amend his climate action plan.

The AES Corporation 495-megawatt Alamitos natural gas-fired power station stands on October 1, 2009 in Long Beach, California. The Obama administration has announced that rather than wait for Congress to act, it has authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward on enacting new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions emitted from hundreds of power plants and large industrial facilities. 
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
Feb. 27, 2014, 3:11 p.m.

Some environmental-justice advocates have been pushing the White House to make their cause a bigger part of President Obama’s second-term climate plan, and now they’re being joined by members of Congress.

While lauding the “Climate Action Plan” to address global warming, Progressive Caucus Cochairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva ask in a letter to be sent to Obama “that the CAP explicitly address the unique environmental justice concerns of low-income, minority, indigenous, and Native American communities across the country.”

The Democrats write in the letter, shared with National Journal, that “climate change compounds existing inequities. Droughts, floods, wildfires, and extreme weather events increase the vulnerability of people living in areas with limited climate resiliency — communities with poor air quality, unsafe housing, and insufficient resources to plan, prepare and recover from extreme weather.” The lawmakers also note how climate change affects public health for people living in poor and minority communities.

Some environmental activists have been concerned that Obama’s climate plan unveiled last June doesn’t address environmental justice concerns more specifically; a whitehouse.gov petition to that effect expired in late 2013 because it didn’t meet the signature threshold.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of President Clinton’s executive order on “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.” It requires federal agencies to identify and address how their policies may create adverse human health or environmental effects for those communities.

On the anniversary of Clinton’s signing, Obama issued a proclamation that highlights the work of his administration in reconvening the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group after 10 years of inaction, and efforts to reduce pollution on tribal lands. Obama also pledged to cut carbon emissions and develop domestic clean energy for the good of “overburdened communities.”

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