How Elizabeth Warren would address environmental justice

She would use the National Environmental Policy Act and increase requirements that all federal agencies take carbon emissions into account when developing rules. She also called for improving maps of disadvantaged communities to better assess the risk of climate change-enhanced damage from threats like flooding and wildfires. She would also instruct the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to step up enforcement against polluters, with a particular emphasis on violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Warren also linked her environmental justice plan to her green manufacturing strategy to clean up the industrial sector and help workers adapt to a clean energy economy. And the plan describes how implementing “Medicare for All” would help disadvantaged communities suffering from pollution by improving access to health care.

What are the weaknesses in the proposal?

Many elements would be within the purview of her powers as president, but the spending she calls for would require action from Congress. Even a unified Democratic Congress might have trouble passing her ambitious, and costly, program.

How much would it cost?

$1 trillion

The plan would cost at least $1 trillion over ten years.

How would she pay for it?

Warren’s environmental justice plan doesn’t lay out details on pay-fors, but in her climate change plan, Warren said she would reverse tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

What have other Democrats proposed?

Nearly all of the candidates have called for addressing the inequalities that low-income communities and minority groups face from exposure to pollution, such as lead-contaminated water, as well as their vulnerabilities to climate change. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has made environmental justice a central plank of his campaign, while Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have also made it a major part of their climate change proposals.

Who would it help?

The plan would apply most directly to communities on coasts frequently subjected to hurricanes, those prone to floods and wildfires and those close to Superfund sites, as well as other groups who suffer from environmental degradation.

Who opposes it?

Fossil fuel companies, who will bear the brunt of the heightened scrutiny, oppose the plan. So do many Republicans and some Democrats, who take issue with its high price tag, as well as its reliance on implementing Medicare for All.

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