Reps. Castor, Blunt Rochester, and Torres Introduce Environmental Justice Legislation to Address Air Quality in Underserved Communities

Feb 18, 2022
Press Release
Legislation Would Identify Air Pollution ‘Hotspots’, Increase Community Engagement

WASHINGTON - On Friday, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) introduced the Environmental Justice Air Quality Monitoring Act, which would help address pollution in environmental justice communities by expanding access to local air quality data. 

The legislation would establish a five-year pilot program for hyperlocal air quality monitoring projects in communities of color, low-income communities, and other underserved neighborhoods. Under a $100 million annual budget, the program would enable state, local, and Tribal air agencies to partner with local nonprofit organizations or air quality data providers to identify block-level hotspots for multiple pollutants, empowering them to use this data to build online mapping tools, inform local communities and air pollution managers about where poor air quality exists, and recommend a course of action to reduce pollution in identified hotspots.

“Environmental justice is at the center of our plan to solve the climate crisis, and that begins with ensuring clean air for vulnerable Americans,” said Rep. Castor, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. “Communities of color and low-income Americans have long been disproportionately harmed by legacy pollution, and we must prioritize these communities as we transition to cleaner energy sources and electric vehicles. By improving access to air quality data, we can address widespread disparities and ensure our clean energy future improves the lives of all Americans, especially those whose communities are burdened by the air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels.”

“Communities in Delaware and across the country have seen the harmful impacts of air pollution for decades. We know that air pollution leads to respiratory illnesses and negative health outcomes for those communities – ultimately diminishing their quality of life,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “And while our country has made great strides in cutting down on unchecked air pollution – the reality is that the pollution that is still most prevalent is pollution that impacts our Environmental Justice communities. In order to help alleviate those unfair burdens and cut down on dangerous pollution, we need accurate and complete data. That’s why I’m proud to join Chairwoman Castor and Representative Torres in Environmental Justice Air Quality Monitoring Act. All Americans, regardless of race, income or zip code, deserve to breathe clean air.”

“Communities of color have long been exposed to elevated levels of air pollution that gravely impact all aspects of our health: physical, mental, and emotional. Our current infrastructure cannot measure block-level variation in air pollution, which is why I am proud to introduce the Environmental Justice Air Quality Monitoring Act to create a pilot program to facilitate local-level air pollution monitoring. Identifying block-level hot spots will inform communities and spur action to reduce air pollution in high-risk areas. I am proud to partner with Reps. Castor and Blunt Rochester to advance environmental justice for all communities and I look forward to supporting this legislation,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Environmental Justice Air Quality Monitoring Act is cosponsored by Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Sean Casten, (D-IL), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Andre Carson (D-IN), Mark Takano (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jamaal Bowman (D-N), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Julia Brownley (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Mike Levin (D-CA).

In the U.S. Senate, the companion bill is led by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

It is endorsed by WE ACT for Environmental Justice; Dr. Sacoby Wilson, Director of the University of Maryland, College Park, School of Public Health, Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health; Gloria Walton, President and CEO of The Solutions Project; American Lung Association; American Thoracic Society; Clean Air Task Force; Aclima; and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Read the full bill text here.

A section-by-section is available here.

Supporting quotes are available here


117th Congress