Environmental Justice (EJ) is a civil rights principle: all people have a right to be protected from environmental pollution and to live, learn, work, play, and pray in and enjoy a clean and healthy environment regardless of race, income, national origin, or English language proficiency.
- Excerpt from a letter written by Massachusetts Environmental Justice organizations. For full letter, click here.
Our Commonwealth’s frontline communities face the combined injustices of lives disproportionately lost to COVID-19, centuries of government-sanctioned racial oppression, and extreme environmental and health effects of fossil fuel infrastructure. And as we know, these evils are all related and hurt families with children and elders most.
Expressing the principle of environmental justice in law has important practical consequences for protecting people across the state because:
- Low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to be in the shadows of multiple sources of pollution including dirty power plants, incinerators and landfills, roads with high auto & diesel emissions, and high obstacles preparing for and recovering from climate-change related disasters.
- Massachusetts regulatory agencies such as the Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Dept. of Public Utilities, and the Dept. of Transportation need a clear legislative mandate to prioritize the protection of low-income communities and communities of color, instead of continuing to let pollution sources accumulate in already-overburdened communities and neglecting those communities when preparing for and recovering from climate change.
We must pass H.4264, An Act relative to environmental justice in the Commonwealth this session. This bill will codify into law guidelines that the Baker Administration has not followed, which is why Mothers Out Front has supported prior versions of this bill since 2017.
EJ legislation has languished in the state legislature, in part because of the use of race as one criterion for defining what constitutes an Environmental Justice population. H.4264 is a new bill that clarifies aspects of the definition including that affluent minority communities would not be given EJ status under most circumstances. This change has eliminated much of the original opposition to the early bills. In addition, Environmental Justice organizations have addressed the need for EJ legislation that includes race in a letter to State House leaders.