Sign on to Support Environmental Justice
It is a fundamental human right, and part of the Massachusetts State Constitution, that all people should be protected from environmental pollution and live in a clean and healthful environment. Despite this, low-income communities and communities of color are more likely than wealthy, predominantly white neighborhoods to be in the shadows of dirty power plants, garbage incinerators, leaking landfills, and other obvious dangers to public health.

The Environmental Justice Act, House Bill H.2913 / Senate Bill S.426 was introduced this legislative session by State Representatives RoseLee Vincent and Michelle DuBois and State Senator Jamie Eldridge. This Act would make environmental justice a legislative mandate for all state regulatory agencies, in order to protect the health of all communities, particularly those at risk of being harmed by high-pollution industries. It would require all state agencies to develop policies to ensure that low-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities have the right to participate in decision-making when polluting industries want to move into their neighborhoods. The Act would also require regulators to actively protect vulnerable communities from bearing an unfair and disproportionate share of pollution, environmental degradation, and risks to public health.

Please endorse below on behalf of your organization or as an individual. By endorsing, you give the Coalition permission to list your organization/business publicly as supporting the Environmental Justice Act.

Feel free to use this letter and distribute it to allies and friends. For any questions, please contact: Richard M. Juang, Staff Attorney for Alternatives for Community & Environment, 617-861-1401 richard@ace-ej.org or Joel Wool, Energy & Environment Advocate, Clean Water Action, 978-697-0361, jwool@cleanwater.org

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Dear Chairs Pignatelli & Gobi:

Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution states that the "people shall have the right to clean air and water." Article 97 offers a realistic and necessary promise of a healthful and sustainable environment to all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of income, race, national origin, or age. We write in support of H.2913 / S.426, An Act Relative to Environmental Justice and Toxics Reduction in the Commonwealth (“the Environmental Justice Act”) as an affirmation of this promise.

The Commonwealth's low-income residents and communities of color continue to face a disproportionate burden of pollution and its harmful health effects. For too long, Massachusetts has failed to act on the principle of environmental justice: that wealth and race should not determine whether people breathe fresh air or smokestack emissions or whether they drink clean water or water slick with leachate from the local landfill. To its great credit, the Commonwealth has had a general commitment to environmental justice since 2002, when the first Environmental Justice policy for the Secretariat of Energy and Environmental Affairs was issued.

This commitment was reaffirmed with Executive Order 552 in 2014. EO 552 required all the Secretariats to issue environmental justice policies and assign staff to coordinate environmental justice issues within and between agencies. Governor Charlie Baker’s administration has affirmed the importance of environmental justice by keeping Executive Order 552 in place. But the work of environmental justice has now stalled. Virtually all of Executive Order 552 remains un-implemented. There remains little or no coordination within or between state agencies on pressing issues of environmental justice. This is not a theoretical problem. As you read this, an incinerator continues to release toxic gases into the lungs of working-class neighborhoods and its unlined ash landfill continues to leak with unknown consequences.

The Environmental Justice Act requires our regulatory agencies to do better. It would codify Executive Order 552 into Massachusetts General Law. We believe that our state agencies are staffed with personnel at all levels of good will that support environmental justice. We ask you to give strength to their good intentions by creating a clear legislative mandate in support of concrete steps toward environmental justice across all state agencies.

The Environmental Justice Act will encourage healthy and sustainable development in our communities. Indeed, if our regulators are wise, the environmental justice policies they develop will support the growth of clean industries that are friendly to the environment and public health. Even today, we see that happening with the rapid growth of the clean energy sector; community agriculture and farmers’ markets; and green infrastructure.

We urge you to issue a favorable report to H.2913 / S.426, An Act Relative to Environmental Justice and Toxics Reduction in the Commonwealth, as soon as possible and push for its enactment this legislative session. We thank you for your support of our environment and offer our regards for your support in this process.


Sincerely,


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