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
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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