2022 will bring significant environmental challenges and expectations to our communities. In the midst of a climate crisis and environmental injustice, our country – and the planet – is entering a key year to remedy, or at least mitigate, the major disasters of the future. So far, the rhetoric in President Biden and his administration’s promises recognizes and addresses these emergencies, but the words are out and we need concrete action.
One of them is the approval of the bill known as the “Build Back Better Act”, or BBBA. The BBBA, which is still under negotiation in the Senate, could be the most important infrastructure and social services legislation of almost 100 years. In addition to helping needy families access education and health services, the law would invest in technology to monitor and clean up the environment our communities depend on. It would also invest billions of dollars to replace lead pipes that continue to serve 22 million people with potentially contaminated water to this day. Likewise, it will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to monitor air quality and clean up toxic waste. In addition, it will accelerate the transition to the use of renewable energies if the use of public and school electric transport is supported.
But it all depends on whether this bill is passed by the Senate and whether these measures are implemented fairly by the Biden administration. From our own experience, we know that low-income communities of color are those that have inherited most of the damage from industrial pollution, as well as exclusion from basic services.
If we are looking for solutions to our environmental crises, the work must begin in these communities. The Biden administration must keep its promise to invest at least 40% of federal resources in low-income communities of color – what it has called Justice 40 – and fight environmental injustice and the climate crisis.
Federal investments must be accompanied by measures that reduce pollution and set strict limits on the chemical, plastics and energy industries to eliminate or reduce their emissions. The same goes for industries such as mining that pollute oceans, lakes and rivers. The measures are comprehensive, but most of them can be implemented by the administration without the approval of Congress. These initiatives begin by limiting emissions of toxic substances such as mercury, lead, ozone and other pollutants so molecularly small that no filter can capture them. Likewise, there is a need to eliminate toxic pesticides such as organophosphates which continue to poison not only the consumer, but also millions of agricultural workers and their families.
Stopping investments in fossil fuels is another opportunity for environmental policy in 2022. The extraction of energy from coal, oil and gas, among others, will continue to wreak havoc: these industries are accelerating the change and poison our air and water, they must therefore be eliminated to address the current crisis. Biden must be dedicated to making real changes to federal policies that still favor dirty industries, overturning decisions such as granting rights to extract oil from the Gulf of Mexico coast, and avoiding bogus alternatives like industry. petrochemical and natural gas. Your government should avoid investing in these initiatives and institute changes so that existing laws favor the most vulnerable.
We need to pay attention to issues that influence all kinds of policies – in addition to environmental policies – such as the protection of the right to vote and the access and transparency of political and civil processes, especially for historically disadvantaged communities who tend to be of color and immigrants. . It is imperative to strengthen the federal government’s capacity to incorporate environmental protection measures into our laws and to punish industries that do not comply with them.
Likewise, racism and colonialism must be totally eradicated. In particular, the treatment Puerto Rico receives from our political system needs to be reformed fairly to achieve zero emission energy.
These measures require a great effort on the part of the public and the federal government to make 2022 a year to remember. There is no time to waste in the face of the environmental crises that beset us, so it is up to us to face them with strength. If we don’t, we, our children and future generations will pay a catastrophic price and judge for failing to avert an environmental catastrophe.
RaÃºl GarcÃa is the legislative director of healthy communities for Earthjustice.