WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congressman A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) today announced they will be reintroducing the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act, a bill aimed at eliminating pollution that has disproportionately harmed communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities for generations. This critical legislation would invest over $200 billion to clean up legacy pollution. This bill will also be co-sponsored by Senators Schatz (D-HI), Smith (D-MN), Durbin (D-IL), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR), Sanders (I-VT), Duckworth (D-IL), Markey (D-MA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Merkley (D-OR) and Padilla (D-CA).
In the United States, pollution is not evenly distributed. Communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities disproportionately bear the burden of high levels of air pollution, contaminated drinking water, and proximity to toxic waste sites. For example, according to reports, African Americans are 54% more likely to live in areas of heavy air pollution, and low income communities are 35% more likely.
Additionally, studies have shown that living near toxic waste sites can lead to higher rates of cancer, greater likelihoods of birth defects and autism, and countless other avoidable illnesses. Three out of five African Americans live close to toxic waste sites, and they are also three times more likely to die prematurely from exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution. There is also compelling evidence from recent scientific research that communities with higher levels of air pollution have significantly higher levels of coronavirus infections, hospital admissions, and deaths.
Many environmental justice communities lack the basic resources most Americans take for granted: one in eight Native Americans lacks reliable access to water, and Black families are twice as likely as white families to live without modern plumbing. Black children are nearly three times more likely than white children to have unsafe blood lead levels.
“In our nation, the biggest determining factor of whether you live near toxic pollution, whether you drink contaminated water, or whether you breathe dirty air is the color of your skin and your economic status,” said Senator Booker. “That’s wrong, and it’s time to make it right. In order for communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities to thrive, this legacy of environmental injustice must be addressed. The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act will make the necessary federal investments to clean up this legacy pollution, and I plan to fight to have this funding included in the upcoming infrastructure and climate change legislation.”
“All Americans should have the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status. For generations, low-income communities and communities of color have been subjected to legacy pollution and have suffered adverse health effects as a result. For too long, environmental hazards, like toxic waste sites and contaminated water lines, threaten the well-being of our communities,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “We must keep environmental justice issues at the forefront of every discussion and work to combat these inequities. The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act is a monumental step towards rectifying the harm these communities face. Not only will it help clean up pollution in our communities, it will help hold large corporations accountable and ensure healthier outcomes for future generations.”
“Everyone deserves access to clear water and a clean environment, but this isn’t the reality for many communities across the country. Our bill provides the funds we need to address decades of environmental injustices, and to finally ensure that people in communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities do not bear the burden of legacy pollution and harmful infrastructure,” said Senator Schatz.
“We need to root out environmental injustices that are harming the health and safety of low-income communities, Indigenous populations and communities of color,” said Sen. Smith. “The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act addresses existing environmental injustices by cleaning up dangerous toxic sites, eliminating lead-based paint in homes, replacing lead drinking water service lines and more. This bill is one of the many steps we must take to address systemic racism, and fulfill our country’s promise of freedom and equality for all.”
“Addressing the climate crisis does not only mean transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels,” said Sen. Sanders. “It must also mean making right the dangerous pollution that hits frontline communities hardest and first, including low-income communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color. This legislation is an important step toward dismantling the toxic legacy of pollution and creating a future built on environmental justice.”
“We're grateful to Senator Booker and Congressman McEachin for this proposal for investments that will not only remediate former mines, brownfields, and other hazardous sites, but will also create thousands of jobs in disadvantaged communities, including areas in Appalachia dealing with the decline of the coal industry,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director for Appalachian Voices. “Now is the time to provide a major economic boost where it is needed most.”
“We value Senator Booker's leadership, vision and commitment to create tangible solutions to the toxic legacy of lead in this country that continues to poison hundreds of thousands of children and communities," said Ruth Ann Norton, President & CEO of Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, which leads national efforts to integrate lead hazard control, healthy homes and weatherization and energy efficiency work. “We have known for nearly a century how dangerous lead paint and pipes are and we know what must be done to fix it. It's long past time to make investments at scale to address housing and water systems and improve racial and economic disparities and health outcomes, while also providing workforce development opportunities. Passing the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Clean Up Act of 2021 is critical, right and necessary to bring an end to lead poisoning and create healthier and more equitable futures for every child.”
“For generations our country has treated Black, Indigenous, Lantinx, and other disenfranchised and disadvantaged communities as national sacrifice zones. Senator Booker’s historic bill rightly invests in confronting the environmental injustices plaguing frontline communities,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate, and community revitalization. “The Senate should swiftly take up this landmark legislation, which will lift up communities, create good-paying jobs, address systemic racism, and recover wildlife.”
“Every person, no matter what they look like or where they live, is entitled to safe drinking water and clean waterways,” said Andy Kricun, Chair of the NJ Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s Water Equity Committee. “No one, no matter what they look like or where they live, should have to worry about lead in their drinking water, or their children walking through puddles of sewage when it rains. Senator Booker's Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution bill will go a long way to end these long standing public health and environmental injustices.”
“Trees are natural infrastructure that combat the impacts of legacy pollution by cleaning our air and water, providing life-saving protection from extreme heat and flooding, and catalyzing healthier more vibrant communities,” said Joel Pannell, vice president of urban forest policy at American Forests. “Unfortunately, a map of tree cover in most American cities is too often a map of income and race as far too many neighborhoods suffer from a lack of adequate tree canopy due to decades of exclusionary and exploitative policies and practices. In this moment of bending the arc toward justice, Tree Equity is not just an environmental justice issue, it’s a moral imperative. We applaud Senator Booker and Rep. McEachin for their leadership with this critical legislation, which would plant an estimated 100 million trees in low-income communities. Trees are essential to the health, wealth, and resilience of all communities and now is the time to close the gap so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of the power of trees.”
“Environmental racism has turned our communities into sacrifice zones, collective dumping grounds for pollution that has a cumulative impact on the health of those who live there, including higher rates of mortality and morbidity,” said Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder & Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We thank Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Donald McEachin for sponsoring the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act, which represents the sort of bold, equitable, and curative response needed to start building healthy communities for all.”
“It is past time that real action is taken to address the environmental injustice that has impacted Black and Brown and low-income Americans for generations,” said Jason Walsh, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “The Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act announced today by Sen. Booker and Rep. McEachin takes tangible steps to clean up polluted sites and abandoned mine lands and replace lead service lines, addressing long standing racial injustice, creating good-paying, union jobs for workers, and ensuring that families and communities have access to clean water and safe homes.”
Senator Booker’s Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act would:
Cleanup Toxic Sites
· Provide $10 billion to the EPA Superfund National Priorities List to accelerate the cleanup of toxic sites and help clear the largest backlog of unfunded sites since 2004.
s $10 billion to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, an investment that would fund the reclamation of thousands of eligible abandoned mine lands sites.
s $10 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Program to remediate abandoned hard rock mines, with priority given to sites located on tribal land.
· Provide $3 billion for grants to remediate brownfield sites. Such remediation efforts are a major boon to economically depressed communities, producing roughly $20 in economic benefits for every $1 spent.
· Provide $10 billion to the Formerly Used Defense Sites Program and clean up 90% of these sites. The EJLPA also commits $3 billion to the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program, which will remediate tens of thousands of acres of formerly radioactive land and return hundreds of properties back to public use.
Improve Air Quality
· Provide $30 billion to replace over 50% of diesel school buses with zero emission school buses in the most disadvantaged school districts.
s $25 billion to urban tree planting initiatives, an investment that will plant an estimated 100 million trees with priority given to projects in low-income communities and communities with lower tree canopy cover and higher daytime maximum temperatures.
Address Lead, Clean Water, and Sanitation Issues
· Inject $45 billion into a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant program to remediate lead-based paint hazards in low income housing, the leading cause of childhood lead poisoning in the United States. This funding would eliminate lead based paint hazards in nearly 4 million low income households.
s $1 billion for grants to tribal governments to address housing-related safety hazards.
· Provide $45 billion in funding to replace every lead drinking water service line in the country.
s $10 billion in funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Decentralized Water Systems Program, which will give nonprofits capacity to provide grants to hundreds of thousands of homes to construct or improve individual household water well and wastewater systems.
· Provide $3 billion to the Indian Health Service (IHS) to build and renovate sanitation infrastructure, which will bring safe drinking water and adequate sewage systems to everyAmerican Indian and Alaskan Native household.
s $25 billion to the EPA to address combined sewer overflows, which will eliminate most overflow problems in economically distressed communities.
The full list of endorsing organizations can be viewed here.
The full text of the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act is available here.
Throughout his time in the Senate, Sen. Booker has extensively worked on and passed environmental justice legislation. In 2019, Booker re-introduced the Environmental Justice Act that requires federal agencies to mitigate environmental injustices through agency action and strengthens the legal protections of those affected by environmental injustices. Additionally, that same year, he introduced and passed into law the Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act that gave states facing a threat to public health from lead in drinking water the flexibility to make a one-time transfer of the federal funds in their Clean Water State Revolving Fund to their Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for projects that will remove lead from drinking water. Additionally, in 2020, he introduced the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act with former Congresswoman Debra Haaland (D-NM) that would invest $100 billion to clean up legacy pollution that disproportionately harms low income communities, communities of color, and Indigenous communities such as Superfund sites, abandoned coal mines, and lead in drinking water.