Clean Water Action Applauds Senator Booker and Congressman Ruiz for Prioritizing Frontline Communities with the Environmental Justice Act

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Washington, D.C. -- Clean Water Action today applauded Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Raul Ruiz for reintroducing the Environmental Justice Act. 

The Environmental Justice Act, first introduced in 2017, takes concrete steps to address the disproportionately negative environmental and health outcomes faced by communities of color, indigenous communities, and low income communities. Dangerous and polluting industrial facilities are often sited in and around these communities. The families and individuals who live in these communities face a higher risk of air and water pollution and other health hazards that can impact educational outcomes, job opportunities, the local economy, and more. 

“Our health and environmental protections, for example the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, have led to cleaner air and safer water throughout the country, but those successes haven’t been distributed evenly,” said Bob Wendelgass, Clean Water Action President and CEO. “We must and can do better to ensure clean water and clean air for all of our communities.”

Senator Booker and Congressman Ruiz’s Environmental Justice Act aims to close the gaps in protection that low income communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities have dealt with for decades. It will codify the landmark Executive Order 12898, signed by President Clinton, which required federal agencies to incorporate a focus on environmental justice. It will also require federal agencies to consider the cumulative impact of pollution in federal permitting decisions and ensures that federal grant programs that focus on addressing environmental justice are protected. 

“We’re thrilled that Senator Booker and Congressman Ruiz are shining a light on the work we still have to do to address environmental justice and the pollution hazards faced by too many communities and families,” Wendelgass continued. “We look forward to supporting this Act and helping to ensure it passes.”

“As a resident of the South Ward of Newark, my family is exposed on a daily basis to disproportionately high levels of diesel pollutants from thousands of trucks, toxic emissions from local facilities, waste stations, toxic flooding and more,” said Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action and South Ward Environmental Alliance. “The Environmental Justice Act will address the cumulative impacts of permitting decisions and bring much needed relief to overburdened Environmental Justice communities across the country, including mine.”

Newark is a prime example of an environmental justice community - it’s the 3rd largest port in the nation with 7,000 diesel trucks making an estimated 18,000 trips daily and is home to one of the largest trash incinerators in the Northeast. School age children have double the state and national average rate (25 percent) for asthma resulting in most missed school days and unaffordable medical bills. Residents also face the nation’s 2nd greatest cancer risk due to diesel emissions. 

Clean Water Action has played a pivotal role in working for economic, social and environmental justice in New Jersey’s urban communities facing the disproportionate impacts of pollution. The organization co-leads the Coalition for Healthy Ports of NY/NJ (CHP), is a member of the national Moving Forward Network, and is chair of the air subcommittee and co-chair of the water subcommittee of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s NJ Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NJEJAC). Clean Water Action also helped enact a first-in-the-nation Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance in Newark in 2016.


Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration.


Kim Gaddy
Michael Kelly