The 202nd General Assembly (1990) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted the report for Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice which calls us to help keep and restore creation, both human and non-human, and affirms that “abuse of nature and injustice to people place the future in grave jeopardy.” This decision will have devastating impacts on both people and the environment, with a disproportionate burden falling on low-income communities of color. Every American should have the right to breathe clean air, regardless of the color of their skin. This Supreme Court ruling makes environmental justice for all even more improbable. On average, people of color comprise 56 percent of the population living in neighborhoods with Toxic Release Inventory Facilities, compared to 30 percent elsewhere. Once again, the United States government has turned a blind eye as communities of color have borne the brunt of environmental degradation and pollution.
As a Matthew 25 church, we must remain deeply committed to dismantling structural racism, and we recognize the unique burden’s that Black, Indigenous, and Americans of color face as a result of environmental degradation. We urge Congress to do everything within its power to protect God’s creation by passing the Environmental Justice for All Act of 2021.
This bill “amends and strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by permitting citizens to seek a legal remedy when faced with discrimination based on disparate impact.” The bill strengthens the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act by requiring “reasonable certainty that a project will not harm human health before issuing a permit.” It also instructs federal agencies to “develop environmental justice strategies and requires that diverse communities be involved in research and data collection, bolstering President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order.” Lastly, the bill provides funding for health equity research grants, supports equitable access to public parks and green space, and assists communities and workers in the transition away from greenhouse gas dependence.
We have a moral responsibility to care for our neighbors, our environment, and our future. As Justice Elena Kagan writes in her dissenting opinion, “whatever else this Court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change. And let’s say the obvious: The stakes here are high. Yet the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action from curbing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions.”
The time for action is now! Contact your members of Congress today and urge them to support bold legislation like the Environmental Justice for All Act of 2021.