Last week, local Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-Cal 36) and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker introduced into both houses of the U.S. Congress the Environmental Justice Act of 2017.
The bill’s purpose is to “eliminate environmental injustice … [by] requir[ing] federal agencies to address environmental justice through agency actions and permitting decisions, and strengthens legal protections against environmental injustice for communities of color, underserved communities, and indigenous communities,” according to Ruiz’s press release.
The legislation is the product of many months of working with community groups from across the nation. Already, many local 40 public-health and environmental-justice organizations have expressed support for the bill.
Both legislators held press conferences and spoke out against the treatment of minorities’ environmental conditions.
“Can you imagine watching your child with asthma struggle to draw breath because of new, preventable air pollutants and feeling powerless? Can you picture the anxiety in finding out there are toxic chemicals in your water or near your children’s school and having little way to hold anyone accountable? This is happening in rural and underserved populations in my district and across the country; I know because I have treated them in the emergency department,” said Dr. Ruiz.
“This legislation gives voice to the voiceless. It strengthens protections for vulnerable populations, gives impacted communities the ability to hold big corporations and government accountable, and provides the funds needed to mitigate and prevent future instances of environmental injustice,” Dr. Ruiz added.
In a conference call with reporters, Ruiz stated the legislation has particular relevance in his congressional district, which includes Idyllwild and all the Hill neighborhoods. Many of the district’s communities cope with contaminated drinking water and some of the highest childhood asthma rates in the state.