June 05, 2020

On World Environment Day, Duckworth, Carper and Booker Highlight Senate Environmental Justice Caucus Successes


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), co-founders of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, commemorated World Environmental Day today by highlight the work of the Caucus and its successes since its founding in 2019. Over the past year, the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus and its 17 members have worked to help address racial justice issues by assisting environmental justice groups that seek to engage Congress, worked to develop policy, conduct oversight, hold briefings and connect staff to environmental justice leaders.

“Every American has the 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. However, too often that is not the case—especially for low income communities and people of color,” Duckworth said. “On World Environment Day, I’m proud of the strides we’ve made toward environmental justice, but I also know there so much more to be done to address the fact that communities of color face public health challenges at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way. I’ll keep working with Senators Carper and Booker, as well as other members of the caucus to help ensure everyone has a right to a safe, healthy and livable environment.”

“Our Constitution guarantees every American the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — but none of those things are possible without clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. The sad truth is that the meaningful progress we have made over decades to clean our air and water has not been distributed equally. A disproportionate number of communities of color, economically disadvantaged communities, and indigenous communities across the country are in the path of pollution that degrades quality of life and puts residents at risk.” Carper said. “Today, on World Environment Day, I commend the work that the Environmental Justice Caucus has done to shine a spotlight on these disparities and advance the public health of these communities. I look forward to continued work with Senators Duckworth and Booker to address these inequities and help ensure that our environmental policies protect and benefit all.”

“We cannot achieve economic justice or social justice in this country without also addressing environmental injustice,” Booker said. “The fact that communities of color, low income communities, and indigenous communities across the country disproportionately face environmental hazards and harmful pollutants on a daily basis has been ignored for far too long. Clean air and clean water shouldn’t be luxuries for the privileged. Though much more work still needs to be done, I am encouraged by the strides we have made since our announcement of the Environmental Justice Caucus last year. Since the creation of our caucus, we have given vulnerable communities a greater voice and a seat at the table. So today, on World Environment Day, I applaud the work that has been done and look forward to ushering in transformative change in the years to come.”

Since its founding in 2019, the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus has secured the following wins:

  • Called on Congress to include historic investments for environmental justice communities in the next COVID-19 package. The HEROES Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives, includes provisions from this letter.
  • Sought major funding increases at federal agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI). There are several programs at these agencies that directly benefit environmental justice communities that are severely underfunded and must be prioritized.
  • Requested technical changes for a rule titled Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (MON NESHAP). This rule disproportionately impacts black and brown communities and EPA’s final rule adopted many of the Caucus’s requests including strengthening equipment regulations and eliminating a general exemption for emissions during startups, shutdowns, and malfunctions.
  • Requested and delivered historic wins in the Senate’s Water Resources and Development Act and Drinking Water infrastructure Act of 2020. Combined, these two bills authorize the investment of more than $18 billion in water resource development projects across the country and prioritize rural and low-income communities.
  • Requested and delivered historic funding for environmental justice programs at EPA. This funding is necessary for the Environmental Justice Program at EPA to build its internal capacity for environmental justice policy and decision making at the Agency.  It will also ensure that environmental justice communities have access to EPA’s capacity and skills and can benefit from specialized agency programs.
  • Convened the Senate’s first-ever hearing on climate change and environmental justice. During this hearing, three brilliant women of color testified to the impacts climate change is having on their communities right now, and what Congress must do to mitigate these impacts.
  • Introduced several bills including the Low Income Solar Energy Act, S. 3680, the EJ Grants Bill, which was included in the HEROES Act, and S. 3633, the Mapping and Screening Tool, which included in WRDA 2020.

To learn more about the Environmental Justice Caucus, click here.