Tlaib Introduces Bill to Protect Frontline Communities by Requiring Consideration of Cumulative Impacts of Pollution for Permitting Process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) introduced the Cumulative Impacts Act of 2022, which would create critical protections for environmental justice and frontline communities overburdened by air and water pollution. The bill builds on the landmark H.R. 2021, the Environmental Justice for All Act, and would require the EPA to analyze cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and deny permit applications unless the applicant can demonstrate a reasonable certainty of no harm to the community or vulnerable groups.

“For far too long, corporate polluters have poisoned Black, brown, Indigenous and low-income communities—putting profits over people’s lives. I will not remain silent while the health of our neighbors living in frontline communities is continuously sacrificed for corporate greed,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Detroit has some of the highest asthma rates in the country and Wayne County has constantly exceeded sulfur dioxide limits in the air. We all deserve to breathe clean air and drink clean water. This legislation will protect and empower our frontline residents living with the devastating effects of climate change and fossil fuel development. The EPA’s permitting process must be evaluated by the cumulative impact on vulnerable communities. It’s past time we begin to repair the decades of environmental racism and disinvestment in communities of color.”

Communities of color and low-income communities have historically been subjected to disproportionate amounts of air, water, and soil pollution, and as a result these communities have suffered from increased adverse health risks.

Cumulative impacts are the public health and environmental risks and impacts caused by the combined past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future releases of environmental pollution in a specific area. Cumulative impact analysis considers these impacts in light of sensitive populations and other social factors that may heighten vulnerability to environmental pollution and its associated health risks.

In Detroit’s 48217 zip code, residents are forced to breathe air polluted by more than two dozen major industrial polluters. In the last three years alone, 28 permit violations have been issued in just one community. Sadly, this is a national problem. In Louisiana’s so-called “Cancer Alley,” home to more than 25% of the country’s petrochemical plants, residents are reportedly 50 to 800 times more likely to contract cancer.

“As a resident living in a frontline community, cumulative impacts are one of the most important considerations when it comes to reducing pollution,” said Theresa Landrum, a community advocate in the 48217 community. “This legislation is greatly needed to protect the life and well-being of our residents. Our community is one of hundreds across Michigan that needs stronger protections from the federal government, whether it be pollution in the air, land, or water. We must look at it wholistically. All of these pollutions come together to harm human health and life.”

“The Cumulative Impacts Act addresses the urgent need to protect frontline communities that bear a heavy burden of pollution, and is an historic step toward environmental justice,” said Kathryn Savoie, Ph.D., Director of Equity and Environmental Justice at the Ecology Center. It’s critically important that the EPA assess cumulative impacts of pollution, which will lead to better decisions that improve the health and quality of life of overburdened communities.”

The legislation is endorsed by: Earthjustice, Sunrise Movement, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Food & Water Watch, Ecology Center, Eco Works, Clean Water Action, Zero Hour, Breathe Free Detroit, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, Southern Environmental Law Center, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit, Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Chandler Park Neighborhood Association, Sustainable Community Farms, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint, D2 Solar, We the People Action Fund, We the People of Detroit, Citizens Climate Lobby Detroit, Moms Clean Air Force Michigan, St. Francis Prayer Center (Flint), Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action, Just Transition Alliance, The Alliance for Appalachia, South Baltimore Community Land Trust, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, GASP Group, Center for Sustainable Communities, Conservation Voters New Mexico, PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources).

The full text of the bill can be found here

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