The Environmental Justice for All Act establishes several environmental justice requirements, advisory bodies, and programs to address the disproportionate adverse human health or environmental effects of federal laws or programs on communities of color, low-income communities, or tribal and indigenous communities. Specifically, the Environmental Justice for All Act prohibits disparate impacts on the basis of race, color, or national origin as discrimination. Aggrieved persons may seek legal remedy when faced with such discrimination.
In addition, the Environmental Justice for All Act directs agencies to follow certain requirements concerning environmental justice. For example, agencies must prepare community impact reports that assess the potential impacts of their actions on environmental justice communities under certain circumstances. Further, it creates a variety of advisory bodies and positions, such as the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council. Among other things, the council must issue an environmental justice strategy. It also establishes requirements and programs concerning chemicals or toxic ingredients in certain products. For example, the Environmental Justice for All Act (1) requires certain products (e.g., cosmetics) to include a list of ingredients or warnings; and (2) provides grants for research on designing safer alternatives to chemicals in certain consumer, cleaning, toy, or baby products that have inherent toxicity or that are associated with chronic adverse health effects.
Finally, it creates a variety of funding programs, such as a grant program to enhance access to park and recreational opportunities in urban areas.
The Environmental Justice for All Act is an essential federal legislative effort to begin remedying the long history of environmental racism and injustice in the United States, including the cumulative and disproportionate pollution burdens threatening communities of color, low-income communities, and Native/Indigenous nations and communities across the country.
Importantly, this landmark bill has been developed in close partnership with leaders in the environmental justice movement. The extensive public input process that informed the Environmental Justice for All Act’s creation has produced legislation uniquely shaped by the same people and communities that will benefit directly from its policy improvements. Accordingly, the Environmental Justice for All Act recognizes that meaningfully improving the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color requires transformative change led by those on the frontlines.
One key component of the Environmental Justice for All Act is the strengthening of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that has provided the foundation for public participation in federal government actions since it was enacted in 1970. Section 14 of the Environmental Justice for All Act will help fully realize NEPA’s potential to be a powerful tool for environmental justice, by requiring federal agencies to provide early and meaningful community involvement opportunities for proposed projects that may affect an environmental justice community.
Another significant aspect of the EJ for All Act is Section 7’s requirement that federal agencies consider cumulative impacts in Clean Air Act (CAA) and Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting decisions. The failure to consider cumulative impacts is a longstanding and egregious oversight in environmental regulation and policymaking. It ignores the lived reality of frontline communities, which often face multiple environmental threats at once, alongside social stressors such as racial discrimination, historical trauma, and reduced access to material resources.