Families had extra reason to mark the July 4th holiday. Last week, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) and members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis gave our country a roadmap for how Congress can achieve zero climate pollution by 2050. To talk about the plan, “Solving the Climate Crisis,” we invited Rep. Castor to join us in a special conversation that you can watch here. In a statement (see Spanish version here) applauding this effort, our co-founder and senior director Dominique Browning notes: “Congress has never before produced anything like this report, the result of more than a thousand hearings and meetings, many attended by both Democrats and Republicans. It is an exhaustive look ahead, an unprecedented effort to capture, in one document, the breadth and depth of opportunities for every Congressional committee to craft solutions to address climate pollution.
BEING CHOKED OUT BECAUSE OF AIR POLLUTION
CNN interviewed Heather McTeer Toney, our national field director, about what the rallying cry “I can’t breathe” means for environmental justice advocates. In its article entitled “For some environmentalists, ‘I can’t breathe’ is about more than police brutality,” Heather shares why these words – uttered by Eric Garner in 2014 and again by George Floyd in 2020, both of whom died while in police custody – are so resonant: “It’s not just about being choked out by police brutality — it’s about being choked out because of air pollution.” Heather also discusses the long history of communities of color in the US being disproportionately exposed to pollution: “‘Throughout our history, African Americans have been subjected to living in places that have not been as conducive to good air and clean water,’ said Toney, who began her focus on environmental issues as the first Black mayor of Greenville, Mississippi.”
ON BEING HEARD IN THE RULE-MAKING PROCESS
Our Pennsylvania field organizer Vanessa Lynch and two Pittsburgh-area members spoke to the Observer-Reporter about why it was important to them to speak out at a virtual public hearing on a proposed rule to control emissions of volatile organic compounds (better known as VOCs) and methane from oil and natural gas sources. Here are some excerpts:
“Vanessa Lynch and her husband moved back to the Pittsburgh region following his military service. They thought it was a good place to nurture a family. This is no longer Smoky City Pittsburgh, but she has concerns… ‘When we moved back … we expected to do so in a healthy and safe environment. We did not expect to have sacrificed so much to ensure the safety of our country, only to return home and not have our own community working to protect us and our children in return.’”
“Rajani Vaidyanathan, an electrical engineer from Allegheny County, testified: ‘In these times of COVID-19, which is a respiratory syndrome, it behooves us to pay more attention to our air quality … I have a metabolic syndrome and my spouse has hypertension, so we really need you, the DEP, to help us be safe in these times with better air pollution controls.’
“Karen Knutson testified that she lives in Indiana Township, in a largely rural section of Allegheny County, and spends time in rural Mercer County. She said she has seen ‘lots of small producing gas wells and they almost seem to accompany every other farm. The tanks are rusty. The wells are old. They are not too far from the house.’”
LATINOS, INDUSTRIAL POLLUION, and COVID-19
Karin Stein, our Iowa field organizer, co-authored an opinion (in Spanish) for El Trueque Magazine about how COVID-19 is taking an extreme toll in Iowa on those least able to protect themselves, exposing and exacerbating inequities there that have gone unchecked for too long. Karin shares how Latinos in her state are both on the frontlines of health-harming industrial pollution and disproportionately hit by the coronavirus. This situation is particularly true in Iowa counties with meatpacking plants and large warehouses, where there are spikes in coronavirus cases in the wake of President Trump’s order declaring them essential businesses that must remain open during the pandemic: “The news informs us of discriminatory actions against people of color, but not many Latinos are aware of the statistics that could be affecting them on a daily, if subtle, basis. Latinos and African-Americans, for example, have a disproportionate rate of asthma and asthma mortality in the country. This is partly due to environmental discrimination, since many Latinos work under conditions that affect their health, and live in areas polluted by heavy industry and traffic. Polluted air leads to chronic health problems that may make it harder to fight off other diseases, such as Covid-19. In Iowa, for example, Muscatine and Louisa counties suffer from high environmental pollution and also have one of the highest rates of hospitalization for asthma and mortality from the coronavirus in the state. But Latinos have two ways to help correct this situation: participate in the census and vote.” Translated from the original Spanish.
REVEALING EPA’S RACIST AGENDA
As we have previously shared, our Texas field organizer Catherine Flowers was quoted in a New York Times article on how climate change is affecting pregnancy. Speaking to the racial disparity uncovered by new research, Catherine said: “This is a moment of reckoning for racial injustice and health disparities. Doing nothing about air pollution, which so clearly has a greater impact on Black Americans, is racism in action.” This insightful commentary has since been echoed in a host of influential outlets ranging from The Root, Madame Noire, and TreeHugger, to EcoWatch, BabaGaga, and Scary Mommy. Thank you to Catherine, again, for helping to reveal EPA’s racist agenda.