House approves DeGette amendment to clean up communities most harmed by pollution

Jun 20, 2019
Press Release
The Colorado Democrat cites situation in Elyria-Swansea and Globeville as reasons why Congress must act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) that will require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify and clean up 100 communities across the nation that are disproportionally suffering from large amounts of pollution caused by nearby facilities.

The measure to promote environmental justice was approved as part of a group of amendments to a larger government spending bill that’s currently being debated in the House. In addition to identify and cleaning up 100 heavily-polluted communities, it would also require the EPA to study the cumulative impact that multiple sources of pollution can have a community, and then incorporate that information into agency’s health assessments going forward.

“When we fail to protect our environment, it is often the poorest among us who suffer the most,” DeGette said on the House floor immediately before the vote. “This amendment would require that the EPA identify 100 communities across the country that are suffering from especially egregious violations of environmental law and clean them up.”

In her remarks, DeGette, who chairs the House panel that directly oversees the EPA, specifically cited the situations in Elyria-Swansea and Globeville, two north-Denver neighborhoods that are often listed among the most heavily polluted communities in Colorado, as reasons why Congress needs to act.

“When we allow pipes to become contaminated, or when we allow companies to spew more toxins into the air, it is usually lower-income communities, and communities of color, that get hurt the most,” DeGette said. “Communities like Elyria-Swansea, and neighboring Globeville, which are neighborhoods in the northern part of my district … This amendment is for them.”

The amendment approved today is the latest in a series of steps DeGette has taken recently to try to help her constituents living in the two north-Denver neighborhoods.

In March, DeGette filed a separate piece of legislation that would require the EPA to set a maximum limit on the amount of hydrogen cyanide that refineries across the country can emit each year without harming the health of nearby residents.

In introducing that measure, DeGette specifically cited a SunCorp refinery located next to the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood that’s been spewing 25,000 pounds of the highly toxic gas into the air each year.

Because the EPA has not yet set a limit on how much hydrogen cyanide facilities, such as the one just outside Elyria-Swansea, should be allowed to emit each year, these facilities have been allowed to set their own limits – regardless of the potential health risks to nearby residents.

Following is a summary of DeGette’s amendment that was approved today:

Summary of

Amendment to Division C of Rules Committee Print 116-18

Offered by Ms. DeGette of Colorado

Removes and adds $3,000,000 from the Environmental Programs and Management fund to instruct EPA to advance environmental justice by implementing environmental enforcement strategies in 100 communities overburdened by serious environmental non-compliance problems. The amendment also instructs EPA to research the cumulative risks posed by multiple sources of pollution, and to incorporate this information into EPA health assessments.

Here’s a link to watch video of DeGette’s remarks on the House floor today prior to the vote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ndB152IMzE&feature=youtu.be

And here’s a transcript of those remarks:

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)

Remarks on the House floor

June 20, 2019

I rise today in support of the en bloc amendment and to offer my environmental justice amendment to H.R. 3055.

This amendment would require that the EPA identify 100 communities across the country that are suffering from especially egregious violations of environmental law and clean them up.

It would require the EPA to study what happens when communities experience multiple sources of pollution, and then come up with better ways to protect them going forward.

The amendment has one simple goal – to ensure that every American has clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and access to food that’s free of toxins.

While the goal may sound simple – the harsh reality is that we, as a nation, have been failing to provide these staples of life to many communities for far too long.

When we fail to protect our environment, it is often the poorest among us who suffer the most.

When we allow pipes to become contaminated, or when we allow companies to spew more toxins into the air, it is usually lower-income communities, and communities of color, that get hurt the most.

This amendment is for them.

These communities include communities like Elyria-Swansea, and neighboring Globeville, which are neighborhoods in the northern part of my district.

The people in these communities experience a wide-range of health problems on a daily basis, like throat irritation and watery eyes, which are likely linked to their constant exposure to a long-list of toxins in their air.

Whether it’s the hydrogen cyanide, whether it’s other kinds of waste, or smog-causing pollutants, these people suffer every day.

I urge the members to support my amendment and let these communities be remedied.