News | March 22, 2023

Environmental Justice for All Act gets new life

Today, Congress reintroduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, which would provide the most sweeping environmental justice overhaul and protections ever adopted. 

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Initially introduced in 2021, the bill was sponsored by Chairman Raúl Grijalva and co-sponsored by U.S. Reps Donald McEachin and Steve Cohen, and with significant input from impacted communities and environmental justice leaders.  

The protections and requirements in this bill are overdue and an essential part of not only fighting environmental injustice, but fighting climate change and acknowledging past wrongs.

Chandra Taylor-Sawyer, Environmental Justice Initiative Leader

To honor the late Rep. McEachin who spent his lifetime in public service working for communities and environmental justice, the bill has been renamed the A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act and is now back in the public eye.  

“Our hope is that this name change moves the needle in D.C. and gets the bill back in front of the public,” says Chandra Taylor-Sawyer, leader of SELC’s Environmental Justice Initiative. “The protections and requirements in it are overdue and an essential part of not only fighting environmental injustice but fighting climate change and acknowledging past wrongs and environmental harms.”  

What’s included in the A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act?

Aside from the name change, the bill remains the same and would explicitly prohibit environmental injustice and discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. 

It amends the Civil Rights Act to allow private citizens to challenge discrimination in court.  It also seeks to establish various advisory boards and programs to address the disproportionate impacts federal laws and decisions have had on public health and the environment in communities of color, indigenous communities, and in lower-wealth communities. 

The bill directs agencies to prepare community impact reports that assess the potential impacts of their actions on environmental justice communities under certain circumstances and establishes requirements pertaining to chemicals and toxins in products. 

Since the bill’s initial introduction, two other important pieces of legislation have become law – the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Passage of the A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act would be another powerful tool to add to an already growing toolkit in the fight to protect future generations. 

Rep. McEachin’s legacy

A Black man in a navy suit, white shirt and green tie stands in front of the columns of a government building.
The late Rep. Donald McEachin speaks during a rally to highlight the efforts of Congressional Democrats to legislate against climate change outside the U.S. Capitol on October 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The bill was reintroduced on World Water Day, a fitting occasion considering how much Rep. McEachin did to fight for clean water and air for all, while also seeking justice and equality. McEachin represented Virginia’s 4th congressional district for five years. 

Trip Pollard, leader of SELC’s Land and Community Program, knew Rep. McEachin for over 30 years.  

“We were law school classmates, and I worked with him for years when he served in the Virginia General Assembly and in Congress. This landmark legislation is long overdue, and it is fitting to name it after him since he worked so tirelessly to promote clean air, clean water, and healthy communities for all,” says Pollard. 

Everyone deserves to live in thriving communities free from harmful pollution.