Environmental Justice Must Be a National Priority

African-American communities are disproportionately burdened by environmental degradation, and unless real action is taken, the environmental and health risks facing our communities will persist.
According to the Village Voice, “One in four Newark children suffers from asthma; the hospitalization rate is 150 percent greater for kids living in the city than in the rest of the state, and more than thirty times the rate nationwide.” Environmental injustice, of course, is not unique to Newark.
In Newark, the City Council passed a first-in-the-nation ordinance requiring developers requesting environmental permits to inform the city of any environmental impacts.
At the same time, the president has proposed slashing the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, eliminating climate change programs, cutting funding to protect water and air quality, and eliminating 19 percent of the agency’s workforce.
The positions and policies of the Trump Administration are a direct threat to the health of African-American communities.
Their anti-science, anti-environmental regulation will only exacerbate the environmental threats that disproportionately impact African Americans, from climate change to harmful exposure to toxic substances.
In the American Lung Association’s “State of Air,” my district and many other metropolitan areas ranked as having the most polluted air in the country.
Given the Trump Administration’s relentless attack on environmental protections, we need to make it clear to our elected officials that we will hold them accountable for any actions they take to dismantle environmental protections and any failures to fight for environmental justice.
We also need to make it clear that environmental justice is a civil rights issue—that is, it’s not only about the health of our communities, but about fair treatment and equal involvement in environmental planning and decision-making.
Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. represents New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District.

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