Summary: The Environmental Justice Act establishes a commission to investigate incidents of environmental racism and coordinate government efforts to ensure that minorities and low-income citizens are not disproportionately subjected to environmental hazards.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Environmental Justice Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:
1. Racial and ethnic minority populations and low-income communities bear a disproportionate share of the health risks caused by polluted air and contaminated water, and by solid waste landfills, hazardous waste facilities, waste water treatment plants, waste incinerators, and other similar projects.
2. This disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on minority and low-income communities is largely the result of past governmental decisions.
3. The federal government underscores the importance of environmental justice by having a National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to promote environmental justice in the Environmental Protection Agency’s policies, programs, initiatives and activities.
4. The state is committed to ensuring that communities are afforded fair treatment and meaningful involvement in decision-making regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, income or education level.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to establish governmental procedures in order to safeguard residents’ health and welfare, and to achieve environmental justice.
SECTION 3. ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:
1. “Department” means the Department of [Environmental Protection].
2. “Environmental justice” means the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures and incomes in the development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and policies.
(B) IMPLEMENTATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE POLICIES
1. All state agencies, boards, commissions and other bodies involved in decisions that may affect environmental quality shall adopt and implement environmental justice policies that provide meaningful opportunities for involvement to all people, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, income or education level.
2. All state programs and policies designed to protect the environment shall be reviewed periodically to ensure that program implementation and dissemination of information meet the needs of low-income and minority communities, and seek to address disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards.
3. The Department will use available environmental and public health data to identify existing and proposed industrial and commercial facilities and areas in communities of color and low-income communities for which compliance, enforcement, remediation, siting and permitting strategies will be targeted to address impacts from these facilities.
4. The Department shall create an Environmental Justice Advisory Council to advise the Department and the Environmental Justice Task Force on environmental justice issues. The Council shall consist of 15 individuals and will meet at least quarterly. The Council shall annually select a chairperson from its membership and shall have a composition of one-third membership from grassroots or faith-based community organizations, with additional membership to include representatives from the following communities: academic public health, statewide environmental, civil rights and public health organizations, large and small business and industry, municipal and county officials, and organized labor.
(C) ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE TASK FORCE
1. The Secretary of the Department of [Environmental Protection] and the Secretary of the Department of [Health], or their appointed designees, shall convene a multi-agency task force, to be named the Environmental Justice Task Force. This Task Force will include senior management designees from the Offices of [Counsel to the Governor, the Attorney General’s office, the Departments of Human Services, Community Affairs, Health and Senior Services, Agriculture, Transportation, and Education]. The Task Force shall be an advisory body, the purpose of which is to make recommendations to State Agency heads regarding actions to be taken to address environmental justice issues consistent with each agency’s existing statutory and regulatory authority. The Task Force is authorized to consult with, and expand its membership to, other State agencies as needed to address concerns raised in affected communities.
2. Any community may file a petition with the Task Force that asserts that residents and workers in the community are subject to disproportionate adverse exposure to environmental health risks, or disproportionate adverse effects resulting from the implementation of laws affecting public health or the environment.
3. The Task Force shall identify a set of communities from the petitions filed, based on selection criteria developed by the Task Force, including consideration of state agency resource constraints. The Task Force shall meet directly with the selected communities to understand their concerns.
4. The Task Force shall develop an Action Plan for each of the selected communities after consultation with the citizens, as well as local and county government as relevant, that will address environmental factors that affect community health. The Action Plan shall clearly delineate the steps that will be taken in each of the selected communities to reduce existing environmental burdens and avoid or reduce the imposition of additional environmental burdens through allocation of resources, exercise of regulatory discretion, and development of new standards and protections. The Action Plan, which shall be developed in consultation with the Environmental Justice Advisory Council, will specify community deliverables, a timeframe for implementation, and the justification and availability of financial and other resources to implement the Plan. The Task Force shall present the Action Plan to the relevant Departments, recommending its implementation.
5. The Task Force shall monitor the implementation of each Action Plan in the selected communities, and shall make recommendations to state agencies as necessary to facilitate implementation of the Action Plans. Agencies shall implement the strategy to the fullest extent practicable in light of statutory and resource constraints.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This Act shall take effect on July 1, 20XX. The Environmental Justice Task Force and the Environmental Justice Advisory Council shall be set up and operating by October 1, 20XX.