Environmental Justice Legislation Gets House Committee Hearing
The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing Feb. 15 to consider H.R. 2021, the Environmental Justice For All Act.
If signed into law, the bill would direct federal agencies to consider community health impacts during the permitting process, codify existing federal government environmental justice (EJ) initiatives, and establish new fee structures for oil, gas, and coal companies to fund efforts to transition away from the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, the bill would overturn a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that limited the ability of citizen suits when EJ concerns are identified.
This legislation has served as the guiding policy document for Congressional Democrats on environmental justice (EJ) and contains many overlapping priorities with the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative. Together, they made up the key EJ components of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act.
However, as the fate of the BBB remains unknown, this hearing served as an opportunity for members of the Natural Resources Committee to discuss EJ at large. The conversation was robust and attention was focused on the need for ensuring that the communities most impacted by these environmental challenges have a seat at the table and are part of finding solutions to these longstanding problems.
This expanded attention to environmental justice aligns with growing attention to EJ among NACWA members. A guiding NACWA document, Environmental Justice in the Water Sector: NACWA Statement of Principles and Recommended Actions on Environmental Justice, was developed and approved by NACWA’s Board of Directors last year. NACWA President Kishia Powell also recently established an Environmental Justice Committee.
It is unclear whether Congress has a path forward on this legislation, but NACWA staff will continue tracking it and related initiatives by Congress and the Administration. Please do not hesitate to reach out to NACWA’s legislative staff if you have any questions or want to get more involved with NACWA’s efforts related to EJ.