Pollution harms everyone, but it isn’t distributed evenly. Throughout the United States, and right here in Rhode Island, neighborhoods with less access to political power due to race, income level, immigration status, and language isolation are more likely than whiter, more affluent communities to be overburdened by multiple sources of pollution.
This includes, for example, transportation emissions from highways and ports, lead exposure from old paint and lead service lines, and emissions from power plants, factories, and other polluting facilities. As a result, the people living in these neighborhoods are disproportionately harmed by high asthma rates, exposure to dangerous toxins, and a lack of clean and safe water. These neighborhoods are Environmental Justice (EJ) communities.
This legislative session, the Rhode Island General Assembly is considering legislation (S770/H6196) to ensure that Environmental Justice communities have greater protections from new polluting projects and better access to the permitting process. Modeled after legislation that already passed in New Jersey, the bill makes sure that families already dealing with the health impacts of living with polluted air and water can finally be heard.
The legislation would specifically do three things.
- It would define environmental justice (EJ) areas in state law.
- It would give state agencies the authority to consider "cumulative impacts" (the total burden of pollution from different sources) when making permitting decisions in EJ areas.
- It would give the public more of a voice during the permitting process.
Take Action! Send an email to your RI State Senator and Representative urging them to support the Environmental Justice Act, so we can make Rhode Island cleaner and healthier for ALL families, regardless of their zip code.