Frontline Groups Call on Congress to Prioritize Environmental Justice in Federal Build Back Better Bill

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On the ninth anniversary of Storm Sandy, leaders of NJ THRIVES, a coalition of grassroots groups on the front lines of climate change, sent letters to members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation calling on elected officials to our state to stand firm on their commitments to provide a real climate of solutions focused on environmental justice and solutions for frontline communities as Congress passes President Biden’s Build Back Better bill.
The bill would spend up to $ 2 trillion to meet basic needs, from climate change to healthcare.
Still, the groups argued that any final climate and environment bill must focus on frontline communities by including five key pillars to ensure fairness.
“As we saw yesterday, the fossil fuel industry is determined to keep its profits high at the expense of the climate provisions of the bill. The Ida floods have shown us that things have not improved since Sandy We need our elected officials to stand with the people and center environmental justice and help us build a just future for our families, ”said Melissa Miles, executive director of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
“As Congress debates historic investment in jobs, care and our future, it is critical that resources be channeled to frontline communities already living with the impacts of climate change and to create jobs. by building a clean energy future, ”said Amanda Devecka. -Rinear, executive director of the New Jersey Organizing Project. “Families are still working to get home, 9 years after Sandy destroyed our communities. Ida has shown us that flooding can happen anywhere – not just on the shore – and we need to be better prepared for the future we face.
“The Build Back Better Act represents a unique opportunity to fight generations of environmental racism by investing in cities like Newark and tackling looming environmental threats, from climate change to leaded water pipes,” Kim said. Gaddy, founder and director of the South. Neighborhood environmental alliance. “We need our legislative leadership to advocate for solutions that put communities of color first. “
The letters, which came from six groups, requested that any final agreement include the following:
Superfund sites. Communities living in, around or downstream of Superfund sites need adequate funding to finally tackle the toxic legacy of our state’s industrial past. Communities must be able to hire their own experts who will side with them and hold polluting companies accountable. We have the opportunity to transform our neighborhoods by cleaning up these sites, but to do that we need the help of the federal government.
Community mitigation. Even with an aggressive clean energy program, we know our world is locked into patterns of rising sea levels and increasingly severe storms. While there has been a lot of talk about strengthening our power plants, roads and bridges against these impacts, it is equally important that we invest in our neighbors to ensure they can handle the increased flood risk. and have the option to relocate, if they choose to.
Ensure frontline and affected communities can impact provisions. Clean and renewable energy programs have historically been inaccessible to low-income households and urban residents. We must ensure that these historic investments are harnessed in ways that benefit all New Jersey residents, especially those who have been the target of systemic racism and other forms of exclusion.
Clean energy has to be really clean. While there is a lot of debate about the federal clean energy programs that could emerge from a final bill, it is critical that federal policy does not reward industries, like nuclear and waste-to-energy incinerators, that are not really clean. These facilities pose continuing dangers to neighboring communities, especially communities of color.
Reinvestments in housing should be an essential part of any infrastructure bill. The components of the Build Back Better package represent critical steps towards home consolidation for millions of Americans. Housing needs have increased for many Americans, so it should be mandatory to create more affordable housing and preserve existing housing. Eviction requests across the country are at an all time high, so innovative approaches to housing will ensure recovery from COVID-19 does not lead to massive homelessness.
“Communities that have suffered for generations from environmental racism and systemic divestment have a unique opportunity to receive justice under this bill,” said Maria Lopez-Nunez, Director of Environmental Justice and Community Development at Ironbound Community Corporation. “We cannot afford to waste this opportunity, and we want to work with our elected leaders to get the strongest deal possible.”
“The FSHC is resolutely in solidarity with our partners at THRIVE. Our number one priority is that housing be included as an essential part of recovery, both through preservation and the creation of new housing. We want New Jersey to PROSPER. “James Williams, director of racial justice policy at the Fair Share Housing Center.
At the same time, THRIVE members called on Congress to reject bogus solutions, such as waste incineration and fossil fuel subsidies, which are driven by powerful corporations but will fail to revitalize communities or achieve the promised environmental objectives.
Democrats in Congress hope to send a final bill to President Biden for signature in the coming weeks.

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