H.2913 is now before the House Committee on Ways and Means. This important committee will assess the costs and benefits of the legislation, in the context of the overall Massachusetts state budget and other pending bill. Please sign on to our support letter below - scroll all the way down to sign on.
--Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, House ChairJoint Committee on Ways and MeansMassachusetts State House, Room 243Boston, MA, 02133
Dear Chair Sánchez,
Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), the Green Justice Coalition (GJC) and the signatories to this letter write to you in support of H.2913 / S.426 An Act Relative to Environmental Justice Toxics Reduction in the Commonwealth (“the Environmental Justice Act”). ACE is a member-led environmental justice organization based in Roxbury and surrounding Boston neighborhoods. GJC is a statewide coalition of environmental, community, and labor organizations. Together, ACE and GJC are pushing forward a progressive platform of environmental justice and renewable energy legislation that directly protect public health for low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and communities of color and increases their access to renewable energy. With H.2913, we seek specifically to reduce and prevent unequal distributions of environmental and public health burdens along the lines of income, race, and national origin. The additional signatories to this letter represent vital and active environmental, community, economic justice, and public health organizations with members across the state. They too wish to speak out in support of H.2913.
We thank you for your co-sponsorship of this bill at the start of the current legislative session. H.2913 is now before Ways and Means. It was reported out of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources with strong support from members of both chambers. We now respectfully ask that Ways and Means report out the Environmental Justice Act favorably on the bases of both its legislative merits and its fiscal prudence.
We wish to bring to the Committee’s attention three core reasons to support H.2913: 1) the environmental and public health merits of the Act, 2) the support the bill has from the current Administration and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and 3) the bill’s cost-effectiveness and fiscal prudence. Generally, we expect the Act to have only a modest impact on the state’s operating budget. We estimate the implementation cost to be between 200,000 to 300,000 dollars. Those dollars would be largely devoted to staffing and training directly related to environmental justice across several Secretariats. The Act requires no capital expenditures. In short, it is sound legislation.
I. The Public Policy Merits of The Environmental Justice Act, H.2913.
The Environmental Justice Act implements the state’s Article 97 Constitutional guarantee that the people shall have the right to clean air and water without discrimination on the bases of race, national origin or personal wealth. The problems that the Act seeks to address are not theoretical. As you read this, an incinerator in Saugus continues to release toxic gases into the lungs of working-class neighborhoods and its unlined ash landfill continues to leak with unknown consequences. Furthermore, the Commonwealth’s environmentally overburdened communities remain disproportionately vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change.
The Environmental Justice Act has five core components, which create a legal framework for addressing environmental justice:
• The Act writes an explicit definition of environmental justice into the General Laws that is easily understood and already accepted by regulators. This strengthens the Commonwealth’s ability to have effective and consistent environmental justice protections throughout the state.
• The Act makes clear the responsibility of the Secretariats for environmental justice and promotes inter-agency cooperation. This promotes regulatory accountability and is essential to protect both the environment and human health, on matters that go across regulatory jurisdictions.
• The Act amends the existing criteria for Environmental Impact Reviews to include public health assessments.
• The Act requires that the Secretariat of Energy and Environmental Affairs develop ways to limit the number of new industrial facilities subject to the federal Toxics Release Inventory put into low-income communities. This will begin to limit the risk of toxic exposure by residents in those communities and preserve their access to a clean and healthful environment.
• The Act directs fines levied on violators of environmental laws into a Supplemental Environmental Project fund to support environmentally beneficial projects in low-income communities. This allows new community projects and innovations to be funded without relying on new taxes or fees. Each component of the bill, individually and collectively, creates a clear protective mandate for environmental justice and public health, while fitting well with how our state’s regulatory agencies can and should operate when they are effective. In substance and structure, then, the bill is consistent with good governance.
II. EEA Supports Budgeting for H.2913.
EEA has made clear that the Secretariat has no objection to the bill on its merits. Indeed, Secretary Beaton of EEA, in his public testimony to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means on February 26, 2018 in Amherst, stated a clear commitment to environmental justice efforts. We commend this express commitment. Secretary Beaton has stated his willingness to provide funding for the hire of a Environmental Justice Director under the Governor’s budget (H.2) line item for climate change and adaptation (2000-0101).
We would ask that this line item be amended to have express language dedicating funds to environmental justice, including, but not limited to the appointment of a senior-level Environmental Justice Director and a junior-level Assistant Director, so as to best carry out the Act in a timely manner.
III. H.2913 is Fiscally Prudent.
Implementation of H.2913 will have only modest impact on the Commonwealth’s operating budget. We estimate that the cost will be between $200,000 to $300,000, consisting principally of the cost of staffing and training within EEA, Health and Human Services, and Transportation.
No capital expenditures are required by the Act. Much of the underlying technology required for intelligent GIS use and data analysis to assess Title VI disparate health impacts is already in use by state government agencies with Title VI responsibilities.
We expect a positive return on investment, over time. The Environmental Justice Act will encourage healthy and sustainable development in our communities. Indeed, we expect that good environmental justice policies will support the growth of clean industries and commercial activities 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, farmers’ markets, and green infrastructure. H.2913 is fully consistent with that direction for economic growth.
On these grounds, therefore, all the signatories to this letter urge the Committee 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. We ask that you and your colleagues push for its enactment this legislative session. We thank you for your support and look forward to working with you, your office, and your colleagues in both chambers.