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July 19, 2021 by Colin Hughes

Environmental Justice and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Why the EPA Needs a Funding Boost

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan recently announced that $50 million from the American Rescue Plan will go toward environmental justice programs at the agency. This award will be accompanied by another $50 million to enhance air quality monitoring to target health disparities. This funding will double the amount of grant dollars for EPA’s environmental justice programs by adding $16.7 million in grants and funding for other programs such as school bus electrification, expanded environmental enforcement, and drinking water safety improvements.

Increased funding for environmental justice programs will foster stronger environmental protections for communities — often low-income communities and communities of color — that are forced to combat a disproportionate share of pollution, toxic exposures, and related health and economic consequences. Investment in these communities seeks to reconcile the gap left by environmental racism and a lack of opportunities to meaningfully engage in zoning, development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws.

As a result of systematic racism, historical practices have led to the concentration of poor communities and communities of color in neighborhoods that contain high concentrations of environmental hazards, such as automobile traffic, power plants, industrial and chemical facilities, and landfills. The already burdened nature of …

July 15, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez, Minor Sinclair
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President Joe Biden is breaking the status quo: He has pledged to write a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change. Unlike any other president, he has outlined specific and aggressive targets to reduce carbon emissions and has backed them up with a $2 trillion plan to fight climate change.

In the meantime, our climate continues to change rapidly and dramatically, raising the ever more urgent question: Will the politics of climate change shift in time to curb its worst effects?

We think it will.

First, low-income people of color are leading a growing movement for environmental justice.

Communities along Georgia's coast, including Tybee Island, Brunswick and Savannah, are feeling the ravages of climate change — from wildfires to high energy prices to coastal erosion — and residents are agitating for change. Fortunately, Georgia enjoys significant wind potential off its coast, according to a new study by Environment …

July 13, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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"When you are at the verge of the abyss, you must be very careful about your next step, because if the next step is in the wrong direction, you will fall."

So warned United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a recent interview on NBC Nightly News. He was calling on the world's wealthiest nations to meet their obligations under the Paris climate accords to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and to help developing countries to transition and to adapt to threats that can no longer be averted. Wealthy nations simply must meet these obligations to achieve the Paris goal of holding global temperature rise to a sustainable level.

Guterres' remarks came as the nations prepared to meet at an economic meeting held last month known as the G-7 summit. Shortly before the meeting, the International Energy Agency, which was created in 1974 to monitor global …

July 8, 2021 by Minor Sinclair
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As a progressive think tank, our mission is to leverage existing law and influence new policy to better protect people and our planet. To do this, we must understand and respond to the social movements of the day, with one foot immersed in the communities and lands we strive to protect and the other in government process and policy.

Alejandro Camacho, Sekita Grant, and Ajulo Othow are leaders in their respective fields, and they bring critical voices and perspectives to our organization. Among other experiences, they’ve worked with conservation and frontline communities on the West Coast, in Puerto Rico and in the Southeast. As CPR moves into its third decade, their rich set of experiences in and connections to the movements for good, effective governance and social justice are exactly what we need to move the needle of change forward.

Alejandro Camacho is a law professor …

July 7, 2021 by David Flores, Darya Minovi
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To read the policy brief related to this post, click here.

Update: Read Senior Policy Analyst David Flores and Policy Analyst Darya Minovi's July 8 testimony to EPA.

Four years ago, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas, causing severe flooding in the Houston area and leading to a loss of electrical power throughout the region. During the blackout, a local chemical plant lost its ability to keep volatile chemicals stored onsite cool, and a secondary disaster ensued: A series of explosions endangered the lives of workers and first responders and spurred mass evacuations of nearby residents.

This infamous incident was a classic "double disaster" — a natural disaster, like a storm or earthquake, followed by a technical disaster, like a chemical release or explosion.

Also known as "natech" disasters, these events pose a severe and growing threat to public and environmental health — and to workers …

July 6, 2021 by Dan Rohlf
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While most people around the country were enjoying summer, residents of the Pacific Northwest used to joke about "Junuary" — the cloudy and often rainy June days before the sun made its relatively brief appearance in the region after the Fourth of July. But as I wrote this post last week in Portland, Oregon — a city set in a temperate rainforest ecosystem of towering trees and ferns — it was 116 degrees outside, the third consecutive day over 100 degrees and the second in excess of 110. The only time I've personally experienced a comparable temperature was nearly two decades ago when I visited Death Valley National Park with my family. Now Death Valley had come to me.

Life changes at these temperatures in the Northwest. Much of our infrastructure was not designed to withstand such extreme conditions. Portland's light rail system ceases to function, of course forcing more …

July 6, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The White House is asking for input on how the federal government can advance equity and better support underserved groups. As a policy analyst who has studied the federal regulatory system for more than a dozen years, I have some answers — and I submitted them today. My recommendations focus on the White House rulemaking process and offer the Biden administration a comprehensive blueprint for promoting racial justice and equity through agencies’ regulatory decision-making.

To put it bluntly, the U.S. regulatory system is racist.

Key institutions and procedures throughout the rulemaking process contribute to structural racism in our society, resulting in policies that exacerbate racial injustice and inequity. We can’t have truly equitable regulatory policy unless and until these features of the regulatory system are reformed or eliminated.

To make good on its promise to advance equity, the Biden administration must overhaul two interrelated components of …

July 2, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for all people to dissolve the reliance on finite energy sources, and to assume a sustainable future, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the demands of humankind requires that they should declare an end to fossil fuel dependence. 

Six in ten Americans support dramatic reduction of the country’s fossil fuel use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. While this isn’t a unanimous declaration, it represents a truth that policymakers and big corporations have been resisting: The majority of Americans believe there is urgency in addressing climate change and that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a necessary component of climate action.

To establish our independence from fossil fuels, there is no silver bullet, but a multitiered …

July 1, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

For the last century, the Supreme Court has tried to operationalize the idea that a government regulation can be so burdensome that it amounts to a seizure of property. In the process, it has created a house of mirrors, a maze in which nothing is as it seems. Rules that appear crisp and clear turn out to be mushy and murky. Judicial rulings that seem to expand the rights of property owners turn out to undermine those rights. The Court's decision last week in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid illustrates both points.

Cedar Point Nursery involved a California law giving labor organizers the right to go into a farm to talk with farmworkers, thereby interfering with the owner's ability to exploit its workers. (No, that's not quite the language the Court used.) The Supreme Court held …

June 28, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez
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This month, environmental justice advocate Sharon Lavigne won the world's largest prize for environmental advocacy for blocking a chemical giant from building a roughly $1.3 billion plastic manufacturing plant in St. James Parish, Louisiana, a majority-Black community. Funded by the late Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the annual Goldman Environmental Prize is awarded to six people around the world who protect and enhance the environment in their communities

At the outset, Wanhua Chemical, the company behind the proposed facility, seemed likely to prevail. Wanhua is the world's largest producer of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), showing its dominance in the global market.

But Lavigne did not falter. Through courage and persuasion, she defeated the petrochemical titan, which wielded power over local and state governments to the detriment of community members. For far too long, the petrochemical industry has targeted low-income communities and communities of color, believing it can …

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