Governor Tom Wolf today joined members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus (PLBC) and local conservationists at the Discovery Center to announce executive and legislative measures that will ensure that all Pennsylvanians, especially communities disadvantaged, are included in conversations and decisions to protect our environment. .
“We must work hard to prevent further climate damage, to mitigate environmental pollution and the unfair damage it causes to vulnerable communities, and to ensure that every Pennsylvanian can claim their constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment. My administration is committed to working with stakeholders to strengthen our efforts to ensure environmental justice for all Pennsylvanians, ”Governor Wolf said. “The actions we are announcing today are an important next step towards true environmental justice in Pennsylvania. ”
Governor Wolf issued an executive order strengthening the Wolf administration’s efforts to fight environmental justice and support low-income communities and communities of color that are affected by environmental issues with adverse health effects.
The decree permanently establishes the Environmental Justice Office of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), headed by a director of environmental justice appointed by the secretary of the DEP. The ordinance also formally establishes the Advisory Council for Environmental Justice and an Interagency Council for Environmental Justice.
“Many communities in Pennsylvania have been disproportionately affected by the pollution, and today’s Executive Order from Governor Wolf is a first step in ensuring that we have some of the tools to mitigate and prevent this from happening. produce in the future, ”DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said.
“The Executive Order and proposed legislation are a critical step in building the infrastructure and tools that will enable the Commonwealth to address environmental justice and support communities that have been disproportionately affected by environmental damage and environmental racism, “said Allison Acevedo, director of the DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice. .
The announcement took place at the Discovery Center, a nature-focused environmental center located in East Fairmount Park. The center, which is run by Audubon Mid-Atlantic and the Philadelphia Outward Bound School, is home to the Strawberry Mansion Reservoir, a century-old abandoned reservoir that has been turned into a wildlife preserve and an important stopover for birds migrating along the Way of Atlantic migration. The Discovery Center, which opened to the public in September 2018, makes the natural space accessible and welcoming to members of the neighboring community. It also offers outdoor leadership and conservation education programs.
State officials Donna Bullock, Malcolm Kenyatta and Chris Rabb and State Senator Vincent Hughes have proposed bills to support the governor’s executive actions. Their bills would demand a more transparent and open process before certain facilities are built or expanded in areas defined as “crowded communities,” codify the Office of Environmental Justice within the DEP and codify the Advisory Council on Justice environmental. These legislative actions would protect these actions against unilateral dismantling.
Lawmakers have noted that these actions coincide with the 30e anniversary of the National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, held October 24-27, 1991 in Washington, DC. The summit led to the adoption of its defining document, the Principles of Environmental Justice. Lawmakers introduced a resolution recognizing the anniversary of the adoption of the principles of environmental justice.
The governor and lawmakers urged the General Assembly to quickly review the legislation.
“On this 30th anniversary of the National Summit on Environmental Leadership of People of Color which adopted the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, we must take an honest look at our Commonwealth’s commitment to environmental justice,” said Bullock. “Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus stand with communities of color and low-income communities in the fight for clean air, clean water, healthy homes and healthy schools. Today we celebrate the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice with intentional and meaningful legislation that gives all Pennsylvanians a voice to have access to a healthy environment in which to grow, live, learn and prosper.
“Environmental injustice is one of the most pressing issues of our time,” Kenyatta said. “It has to do with racial injustice, as people of color tend to be the most affected by climate change. It’s been 30 years since 17 principles of environmental justice were adopted and where are we now? How have these principles guided our environmental decisions as a country? Kenyatta said. “On this anniversary of this very important adoption, we must remember that the fight to protect our environment and those most vulnerable to its effects is not over.”
“Study after study has shown that race is the best indicator of whether a person lives near pollution, and blacks are more likely to be disproportionately affected by pollution and even more likely than whites to be. die from exposure to it, ”Rabb said. “It didn’t happen by accident. It is the result of systemic racism that has endangered and kept blacks and other historically marginalized communities there. As I have said many times before, systemic problems must be solved with systemic solutions, and our elected officials and our government must be part of the solution.
“With the recent commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the principles of environmental justice at the first National Summit on the Environmental Leadership of People of Color, there is no better time than the present to correct the problems of our past. that continue to affect our present and will affect our future, ”Rabb said.
“For too long, the impact of environmental risks on minority and low-income populations has been ignored by government at all levels,” said Hughes. “The adoption of the Principles of Environmental Justice 30 years ago finally forced the government to accept that public policy is based on mutual respect and justice for all and that environmental justice requires the rights of members of every community to ” be equal partners at all decision-making levels. manufacturing. Over the past few years, we have fought to increase awareness and action on the impacts of the environment on black and brown communities by removing lead paint from our homes, asbestos and mold from our schools. ruined and guaranteeing drinking water without toxic poisons. “