VIDEO RELEASE: Merkley Shines Light on Urgent Need to Address Environmental Injustices that Put Lives, Livelihoods at Risk

Washington, D.C. – 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, today gaveled in the Subcommittee’s hearing on Environmental Justice. This is the first hearing since “Environmental Justice” was officially added to the subcommittee’s name to expand the scope of the committee to address the disproportionate human health and environmental burdens on communities of color and low-income families.

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, were among the witnesses who provided testimony during the hearing.

“I convened the first hearing of this newly-named subcommittee on environmental justice and adverse impacts on at-risk communities to highlight the growing awareness of, and public conversation around, environmental justice in America,” said Chairman Merkley. “As climate chaos continues to ravage our country and our planet—from the 80 fires burning across 13 states, including the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, to more frequent, powerful, and destructive storms and flooding—we must recognize and address the fact that the worst consequences of this crisis disproportionately fall on communities of color and others with the fewest resources for adapting or recovering. I’m grateful that we are finally engaging in a long-overdue national conversation about environmental justice and the well-being of all of our communities, and am fully committed to doing everything I can as the Chair of this Subcommittee to ensure that action follows.”

Topics emphasized throughout the hearing included the need to address discriminatory processes that make it especially difficult for communities of color to access the federal resources they need and deserve to recover from catastrophic storms and fires; the importance of responding to the needs voiced by environmental justice communities; the need to enforce existing laws and regulations pertaining to clean air, water, and soil; and how to best ensure that cleanup funding and resources reach tribal communities, among others.

Video of the hearing is available here.

“Earthjustice applauds EPW for holding a hearing on the current issues adversely affecting environmental justice populations. Catherine Flowers’ important testimony shows exactly why it is urgent that Congress take bold, immediate action to reduce inequities in wastewater, sanitation, and drinking water access that have plagued places like her home of Lowndes County, Alabama, for decades. One time action is not enough: sanitation and water justice requires a committed, sustained investment in communities, as well as guardrails to ensure accountability to these communities in the years to come,” said Julian Gonzalez, Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice.