Merkley to Gavel in First-Ever Senate Environment and Public Works Hearing on Environmental Justice

Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, July 22, 2021, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight—will gavel in the Subcommittee’s first-ever hearing on disproportionate human health and environmental burdens on communities of color and low-income families.

Witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee will include Laura Pulido, Collins Chair and Professor of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, and Catherine Coleman Flowers, Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ) in Montgomery, Alabama.

“With catastrophic wildfires burning at a rate and scale that we’ve never seen before, extreme hurricanes, torrential flooding, and historic droughts and heat waves, it is essential to Americans’ health and prosperity that we move boldly to address climate chaos. And as we do so, we have to recognize and build our response around the reality that both pollution and extreme, deadly weather events hit Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities the hardest,” said Merkley. “Everyone in this country—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their income—deserves clean air, water, and soil, and protection from climate chaos. This hearing is a first step to ensuring that we create solutions that deliver for everyone, instead of shifting even greater problems onto those who have been traditionally marginalized by our politics.”

“For years, low-income people and communities of color have disproportionately suffered from dangerous pollution and environmental racism in our country. Rising sea levels and extreme heat only threaten to make matters worse and grow this divide,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Carper. “As we draft legislation in Washington, we have to listen to our environmental justice communities. I applaud Senator Merkley for his leadership in putting this hearing together and providing a platform for those who have the most to lose from pollution and climate change.”

The hearing will detail several crucial environmental justice issues—including climate chaos, drinking water quality, water infrastructure, pesticides, stormwater runoff, air pollution, and hazardous waste sites—and emphasize the importance of addressing them, by ensuring that all Americans receive equal protection under laws pertaining to clean air, clean water, and protection from toxic pollutants. Additional topics of discussion will include the role of federal strategies and activities to advance solutions to environmental justice issues; ways to boost resiliency in the face of climate chaos’ increasingly destructive consequences; increasing access to economic opportunities for communities of color and low-income people; and affirming the Subcommittee’s commitment to inclusive and transparent policy processes.