Nat Resources Dems
Aug 8 · 6 min read

In June, environmental justice leaders and policy-makers convened at the U.S. Capitol for an all-day event hosted by Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.). This historic convening launched a new effort by Democratic Congressional leaders to elevate the voices of communities traditionally left out of the policy-making process.

At the convening, Chair Grijalva declared his intention to introduce a wide-ranging environmental justice bill, based on principles drafted with the input of groups in attendance and others expected to join the effort.

We encourage community members to review the proposed principles, submit feedback and participate in the process at https://naturalresources.house.gov/environmental-justice.

Here are just some of the highlights from the historic day.

“We cannot have a discussion about climate change without the center of that discussion being the communities that have been left behind.”

— Chair Raúl M. Grijalva

“We have an obligation to speak up for the voiceless. Those folks who are subject to environmental injustice are oftentimes the voiceless.”

— Rep. A. Donald McEachin

“My Pueblo was the site of the largest open pit uranium mine in the world… For thirty years they blasted every single day… damaging houses that had been in families for hundreds of years and wreaking environmental and social havoc on our community… Environmental justice needs to be sought for the people whose lives have been affected — not just recently but for hundreds and hundreds of years. I stand with you to fight for environmental justice.”

— Vice Chair Deb Haaland

“There is a human toll when we do nothing. When we do nothing on the quality of our air and water, and everything that we know is being contaminated… all centered around corporate greed.”

— Rep. Rashida Tlaib

“We must have organizing, mobilization, and people that are ready to take control of their communities; take control of the political process. That’s how we get action!”

— Robert Bullard

“As we talk about environmental racism, we need to know that it is deeper than environmental racism; it is environmental genocide. So we need to remember 1) where we came from, 2) who made it possible for us to be here, and 3) what our elders and what our ancestors have given to us.”

— Richard Moore

“I think that communities of color that have been poisoned and contaminated and heaped up with assaults and insults — we’re still here. We’re still fighting even though we’re sick, and we’ve witnessed our family members dying.”

— Dr. Mildred McLain

“My uncle died five weeks ago because of the cancerous chemicals that are coming out of Exxon. His kids are scared now, and I’m scared.”

— Diego Loredo

“While folks are laughing all the way to the bank, we’re crying all the way to the grave! We say enough is enough! Thanks to the environmental and economic justice movements people are organized, mobilized, educated, suing governments, seeking effective change, moving the markets, showing up in investment spaces… and seeking for the fight of their life.”

— Michele Roberts

“We need to have a say in what gets built in our communities. Often we don’t have a voice in the conversation. We receive all of the harm and the degradation and the death, but our voices are silenced.”

— Kim Gaddy

“Environmental justice demands meaningful participation of communities that are most affected.”

— Marianne Engelman-Lado

“The disproportionate amount of pollution in environmental justice communities makes the system sustainable… but not sustainable for our communities. But because those other communities don’t see it and don’t have to deal with it is what makes it sustainable for those communities.”

— Nicky Sheats

“Policies don’t affect just our pocketbook. Policies impact our health, our communities, and everything around us. So, if you get them wrong, we are the ones who will suffer the consequences — so do your due diligence.”

— José Bravo

“Environmental justice is as fundamental as it can be. It’s as fundamental as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the communities we live in. Every person deserve access to healthy, livable communities; to clean air, clean water, and to the beauty of God’s creation. Yet across America many communities — low-income communities, rural communities, and communities of color — face towering environmental injustices.”

— Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

“In my opinion clean water, clean air, and a healthy workplace are really rights that all Americans have. It shouldn’t matter what your ethnic or racial background is. I think that we have an added challenge now with environmental justice because of climate change.”

— Chair Frank Pallone

“It is clear that we need to ensure that front-line communities have a seat at the table — both in our communities back home and here in Congress.”

— Rep. Katherine Clark

“It is important that you are here to discuss your concerns to the Congress, particularly as it pertains to vulnerable communities. Frankly, there are some that can insulate themselves better from the consequences of climate change than others can. We need to make sure that we — on their behalf — focus on those who are most vulnerable.”

— House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

“Often we hear about climate change. We hear about the Green New Deal. We hear about the infrastructure priorities. But rarely do we hear about the environmental justice component of those initiatives”

— Rep. Adriano Espaillat


Nat Resources Dems

Written by

House Natural Resources Committee Democrats, U.S. House of Representatives.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade