DeGette introduces legislation to deliver environmental justice in 100 hardest-hit communities

Apr 8, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced legislation today to clean up the 100 most heavily polluted communities in the country.

The measure, which seeks to deliver environmental justice in some of the nation’s hardest-hit communities, would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify at least 100 low-income, or predominantly minority, communities that are suffering from an unusually high number of environmental-law violations. Once identified, the legislation would then require the agency to work with state and local officials to identify the root causes of those violations and clean them up.

“Our nation’s environmental laws were put in place for a reason,” DeGette said. “They are supposed to protect all of us, equally. Unfortunately, when those laws are broken, skirted or ignored, it is often the poorest among us that pay the price. Environmental justice for all should be more than just a catchphrase, it should be our collective mission. We have to do more to help the communities that have been forced to bear the brunt of this crisis.”

Data has shown that minority, low-income, and disenfranchised communities are often hit hardest when environmental laws are not properly enforced. While the federal government is responsible for setting environmental standards to be applied nationwide, it is often up to state environmental agencies to enforce them.  

In addition to cleaning-up the communities hardest hit by multiple violations of our environmental laws, DeGette’s legislation would also require EPA to address the cumulative negative health effects caused by multiple sources of nearby pollution – such as those experienced by residents living in Elyria-Swansea and Globeville, two north-Denver neighborhoods that are surrounded by several major highways, railroad lines and industrial plants. 

While current EPA regulations require the agency to consider the possible health effects that could be caused by an individual source of pollution, it is not required to consider the cumulative impact that multiple sources of pollution could have on a nearby community. 

If approved, DeGette’s legislation would change that and, for the first time, require EPA to address the cumulative health impacts that multiple sources of pollution – such as increased auto exhaust from a nearby highway, coupled with increased industrial emissions from nearby industrial facilities – may have on a community. 

DeGette introduced similar legislation in the House last year, which the chamber approved as part of a broader clean-energy bill. That legislation, however, was never taken up by the then Republican-controlled Senate.

The legislation introduced today will head to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is expected to take it up in the coming weeks.

A copy of the legislation is available here