Washington, D.C. – Members of Congress from the three caucuses representing people of color are leading the charge to defend the environment in the nation’s capital, according to a special report by the League of Conservation Voters released on the new podcast “Think 100%, Coolest Show on Climate Change.”
According to the report, these members authored two of the four pro-environment amendments featured in the 2017 Scorecard. The Communities First: Report on Environmental Leadership from Caucuses of Color is part of LCV’s 2017 National Environmental Scorecard, which is the primary yardstick for evaluating the environmental records of every member of Congress.
Senator Cory Booker joined LCV Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld and climate leaders Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. and Mustafa Santiago Ali to release the report on an episode of the new show, available here.
“Not all communities bear the brunt of pollution equally,” said Senator Cory Booker. “Far too often those suffering from environmental injustices are low-income communities and communities of color. The League of Conservation Voters’ Special Report is shining a light on the critical work of Congressional caucuses of color to fight back and overcome these injustices.”
This special report produced by LCV and its community organizing program Chispa highlights the leadership of members in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), collectively known as the Tri-Caucus.
“Despite the torrent of bad news on the environment coming out of the Trump administration, it is extremely encouraging to see members of the Tri-Caucus fighting to protect our basic rights to breathe clean air and drink clean water,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, League of Conservation Voters Senior Vice President for Government Affairs. “These members are fighting for the health and well-being of the communities they represent, which include low income and communities of color that far too often bear the brunt of uncontrolled pollution’s devastating impact on our air, water, and neighborhoods.”
Examples of environmental leadership include Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-05), who led an amendment that would prevent needless delays in implementing a stronger ozone standard and help clean up the air for millions of people currently living in areas with unsafe air quality, which disproportionately includes lower-income and communities of color.
“In the face of a Presidential Administration that is attempting to dismantle basic protections that keep our communities healthy, country safe, and planet habitable, Congressional Members of Color are continuing to step up and fight back,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization at Hip Hop Caucus. “Their actions are especially critical for our most vulnerable communities, including low-income, communities of color, and Indigenous populations, who are at the front-lines of climate change and bear the brunt of pollution and dangerous policy decisions in places like Flint, Port Arthur, Puerto Rico, Standing Rock, and East Chicago. This report indicates that most Members of Color understand just how important their actions are when it comes to improving the lives of these communities and thus should be commended.”
Congressman Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03) also led an amendment that would restore funding to the EPA’s Environmental Justice Program after the Trump administration proposed to eliminate it. This critical program helps low-income and communities of color overcome the disproportionate impacts of exposure to hazardous pollution and environmental contamination.
“The stakes have never been higher for communities of color when it comes to environmental justice and protection. From my front row seat on the House Natural Resources Committee, I’ve watched the Trump administration dismantle protections for our federal lands and open them up to the highest bidder,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “I’m proud to be fighting in Congress to stop Donald Trump from turning our public lands over to corporate polluters – most recently with my work with local tribes to push for protection of the Bears Ears National Monument. Our country should be protecting the landscape, wildlife and cultural and historic significance of these special places, not selling off America’s natural and cultural heritage.”
The Tri-Caucus members’ environmental leadership was not limited to floor action as many asserted their influence by forming task forces, leading committees and caucuses, and introducing legislation. In May 2017, Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-04), Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (CA-44) and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) launched the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, which aims to address the disproportionate environmental impact on low-income families, communities of color and other marginalized groups.
“California has some of the country’s most beautiful outdoor spaces, but in Los Angeles, just 15 percent of the population has pedestrian access to public parks or green spaces. And its communities of color who are particularly affected, with dramatically less access to parks than white neighborhoods. That is why I have made access to parks and outdoor spaces a priority of mine in Congress,” said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus. “I’m especially proud to have championed the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which is already drawing more Angelenos than ever to have their lives changed through an experience in nature. But access isn’t enough. I want to ensure that when visitors arrive at our parks and trails, they find a pristine and safe environment with navigable trails and educational opportunities. And I’m proud to have the LCV as a partner in that work.”
Communities First: Report on Environmental Leadership from Caucuses of Color includes votes for 93 members of the House and Senate. The average score for CAPAC members was 98 percent, for the CBC it was 91 percent, and for CHC it was 90 percent. Further, more than 30 Tri-Caucus members consistently voted in favor of the environment, earning a perfect score of 100.
“Our communities deserve members of Congress who will stand up for our environment and public health, and the Tri-Caucus members are leading that charge,” said Ernesto Vargas, Chispa National Director. “With the Trump administration taking every opportunity to sell out our future so their industry friends can make a profit, the leadership of congressional members of color is more important than ever.”