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What is environmental justice and why does it matter to Quakers?

Environmental justice, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

FCNL is an ally to environmental justice communities who have long sought to bring greater awareness to this issue. We see environmental advocacy as part of our commitment to earth stewardship, equity, and justice for all. 

What would the bill do if it became law?

If passed, the bill would:

  • Allow environmental justice communities to hold polluters accountable in the courts for projects that use federal funds and engage in environmental discrimination.
  • Direct federal agencies to document the environmental and human health risks borne by populations identified by race, national origin, or income and use this information to determine whether their policies harm human or environmental health.
  • Provide grant funding to support research and development on programs and initiatives to address environmental and public health issues in environmental justice communities.

I am not a member of the environmental justice community. How will I be able to tell a powerful story about my connection to this policy?

Even if you do not feel personally associated with the environmental justice community, we encourage you to think about how decisions about energy production, transportation, waste processing, and environmental pollution may impact the health and well-being of your family, friends, and their communities. Your story can also be tied to your faith, values, or realizations that influenced your thinking about the environment that you live in and experience on a regular basis.

What is the current state of the bill in Congress?

The bill was introduced in both chambers of Congress in March 2021.

  • In the House H.R. 2021 was introduced by Reps. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03) and Donald McEachin (VA-04). The bill has 106 cosponsors. In July 2022, the House Natural Resources Committee held a markup of the bill, which was voted out of Committee in a party-line vote.
  • In the Senate S. 872 was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (MN). The bill has 13 cosponsors.

Our job now is to talk to both supporters and opponents of the bill to help build greater understanding of the need for this legislation and encourage Congress to consider and pass it

Is there any Republican support for the bill?

While no Republicans have cosponsored the act, we have been and will continue to educate Republicans on the bill and listen to their views as part of our effort to help build bridges and spark conversation on the issue.

I heard that the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act is going to invest $369 billion into climate and energy projects. How does the Environmental Justice for All Act complement these investments?

There are several provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that build upon the momentum for environmental justice. The law designates a historic $60 billion for environmental justice initiatives. Examples include grants for community-led projects, bonus credits for renewable energy infrastructure in low-income areas, and improving resilience for food source landscapes in Native communities. 

Is there a way of measuring the impacts of the environmental justice programs and initiatives that were included in the IRA?

With the passage of the IRA, we will be watching to see that the funding directed to the needs of environmental justice communities reaches those communities. We can measure the impacts of environmental justice through public engagement and analysis of impact areas such as transportation access and affordability, noise, air and water pollution levels, and housing availability.

Are there any actions I can take prior to going on a lobby visit?

Yes! Before meeting with lawmakers, we invite you to write to your members of Congress and urge them to support the bill (H.R. 2021/S. 872). We also encourage you to inform yourself about the environmental justice issues present in your local environment and think about how they impact you and the people in your life. Here are some resources that could help with that:

Where can I get more information? 

For more resources, please consult our analysis of the bill and the website of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Staff: Jus Tavcar

Jus Tavcar

Program Assistant, Sustainable Energy and Environment (2022-2023)
Jus Tavcar is the program assistant for sustainable energy and environment. In his work, Jus lobbies Congress to pass policies in favor of transitioning into a just green economy.