March 18, 2021

Duckworth Introduces Sweeping Bill to Help Bring Environmental Justice to Every American


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, comprehensive legislation to achieve health equity and climate justice for all, particularly underserved communities and communities of color that have long been disproportionately harmed by environmental injustices and toxic pollutants. This legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Representative A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04). Duckworth is the Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Senate’s first Environmental Justice Caucus and the Chair of the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife, which has jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act

“In order for our nation to emerge from this deadly pandemic stronger than we were before, we must confront the fact that communities of color face public health challenges—which also make them more susceptible to the effects of the deadly COVID-19 virus—at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way,” Senator Duckworth said. “I’m proud to be introducing this vital legislation because it would go a long way toward making real every American’s right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land—regardless of their zip code, the size of their wallet or the color of their skin.”

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) also helped introduce this legislation.

Specifically, the Environmental Justice for All Act:

  • Amends and Strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination based on disparate impacts and overturns Alexander v. Sandoval.
  • Requires the Consideration of Cumulative Impacts: Explicitly adds cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.
  • Codifies the Clinton Administration’s Environmental Justice Executive Order: Creates a working group to ensure compliance and enforcement and develop government-wide strategies.
  • Reinforces the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Requires early and meaningful involvement in actions impacting communities, including Tribes.
  • Asserts Health Equity: Funds programs to study potentially harmful products marketed towards women and girls of color.
  • Provides Outdoor Access for All: Establishes programs to ensure more equitable access to parks and the outdoors.
  • Establishes Environmental Justice Grant Programs: Funds grants for research, education, and projects to address environmental and public health issues.
  • Ensures a Fair and Just Transition: Establishes a Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund to support communities and workers as they transition away from fossil fuel-dependent economies.

In January of this year, Duckworth helped U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO-01) announce the introduction of legislation that would create and authorize funding for a system to comprehensively identify the demographic factors, environmental burdens, socioeconomic conditions and public health concerns that are related to environment justice and collect high-quality data. Duckworth also recently secured a commitment from EPA nominee Michael Regan to prioritize environmental justice and joined Booker and Carper in applauding the environmental justice efforts in President Biden’s climate action plan. Last week, Duckworth also joined Durbin and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) in requesting a review of the health risks associated with emissions from a metal recycling plant located on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

Duckworth co-founded the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus in April of 2019 to raise awareness of the many environmental and pollution issues that have created public health challenges, which disproportionately impact low income communities and communities of color. The Caucus seeks to help those communities advocate for themselves with the federal government by providing expertise and assistance, generating legislation and organizing hearings and events. Duckworth also brought Illinois-based environmental justice advocate Celeste Flores as her guest to the 2020 State of the Union.