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After years of inaction, the 117th Congress finally took some much-needed steps to address the climate crisis.

Between the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in November 2021, and the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, lawmakers dedicated hundreds of billions of dollars towards green energy initiatives that should help decarbonize the economy by 2050—an ambitious but attainable goal of the Biden administration.

These are deeply important and exciting victories. But now, our attention turns to an issue historically ignored by the federal government: Environmental justice.

Dr. Robert Bullard, considered by many to be the “father of environmental justice,” defines it as  “equal protection and equal enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.”

Now, our attention turns to an issue historically ignored by the federal government: Environmental justice.

Though we all desire clean air, clean water, and fertile soil, environmental damage impacts some of us far more than others. Black, Brown, indigenous, and low-income communities in particular have historically been disproportionately affected by environmentally-harmful infrastructure projects. Highways, waste incinerators, and gas pipelines are often placed in underserved communities without the input of local residents.

That’s why hundreds of people from across the country will be advocating for the Environmental Justice for All Act (H.R. 2021/S. 872) at FCNL’s Annual Meeting and Quaker Public Policy Institute, Nov. 16-20.

This bill would be transformative. It would enable frontline communities to take legal action against polluters. It would direct the federal government to document the environmental and human health risks borne by diverse communities, and assess the impact of the proposed policies. And critically, this legislation would provide funding to address environmental and public health issues impacting marginalized communities.

Legislation to advance clean energy development must be accompanied by policies that give vulnerable communities a voice in how these projects impact their lives. The Environmental Justice for All Act can help do exactly that as we move toward a more sustainable future.

In addition to Annual Meeting and the Quaker Public Policy Institute, FCNL has had a couple other opportunities recently to engage with environmental justice.

In October, we co-hosted a webinar with partners in the Washington Interfaith Staff Community’s Inter-Religious Working Group on Extractive Industries. We discussed the difficulties involved in mining for critical minerals needed to develop solar and wind farms and electric vehicles.

As the private sector seeks ways to extract lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite, permitting processes must be reformed to consider the voices of communities like Tribal Nations, who tend to be most affected by energy infrastructure projects.

Just this month, we hosted a conversation with representatives from the Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC)  in San Luis Obispo County, California. The council’s federally proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would protect an offshore ecosystem sacred to the Native peoples in the area.

However, the government plans to build a large wind farm near the sanctuary. The council’s negotiations with federal agencies over the site’s protection are just one of many examples of how green investments need to be centered around the intrinsic quality of life for people and preservation of natural resources.

Staff: Jus Tavcar

Jus Tavcar

Interim Legislative Associate, Sustainable Energy and Environment (2022-2023)

Jus Tavcar is the interim legislative associate for sustainable energy and environment. In his work, Jus lobbies Congress to pass policies in favor of transitioning into a just green economy.