The health and safety of our communities are non-negotiable. Environmental reviews ensure that the air we breathe and the water we drink remain clean and free of harmful pollutants.
Decisions that affect the natural environment’s air, water, or public lands, almost inevitably affect the health and well-being of all species—humans and nonhumans alike—that depend on them. Environmental protections like NEPA recognize this and help to ensure that the air we breathe and the water we drink remains clean and free of harmful pollutants.
NEPA requires government agencies to engage in a review process intended to discover any significant environmental and public health impacts before a decision is made. It ensures that those who manage federal projects make the best decisions based on the best information while involving and informing the public. For example, if the federal government wanted to build a pipeline or power plant, the NEPA environmental review process would require public comment from the community and disclosure of any long-term health risks.
Although NEPA does not require agencies to select the least environmentally harmful alternative or to elevate environmental concerns above others, it does make it harder for federal agencies to use mumbo-jumbo and bureaucratic dodges to rush ill-advised projects into operation by ensuring that major federal actions will comply with critical regulations like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts before construction begins. The result? A reduction in exposure to pollutants, lower rates of cancer and other chronic illnesses across the board, and fuller lives lived.
Our fight for healthy communities involves strengthening NEPA standards and protections and holding polluters accountable when in three key issue areas:
One in three Americans lives in communities where the air is unsafe to breathe because of pollution. Dirty air persists because some polluters refuse to clean up toxic air emissions, despite the availability of proven pollution control technology.
Water pollution is a nationwide problem that threatens our drinking water supplies, food sources and beloved forms of recreation. Treasured waters are at risk from pollution and industry water grabs and can no longer support the needs of people or wildlife.
Scientific evidence links chemical exposure to higher rates of illness. We must reduce the use of and exposure to dangerous chemicals and protect those most vulnerable, including children, pregnant women, and low income and communities of color.
By building strong local and national coalitions, our goal is to push states to drastically reduce carbon emissions, but also provide strong protections against fossil fuel pollution in low-income communities and communities of color. It’s equally important that these state actions ensure an equitable distribution of good clean energy union jobs to economically and environmentally distressed communities. Our goals include:
- The full inclusion of local communities in determining procedures around state and local emissions reduction targets;
- Strong and equitable carbon reduction targets;
- Quality careers in clean energy created emissions reductions policies, particularly for members of low-income communities and communities of color;
- Protecting local frontline communities from becoming hot spots — areas that have high concentrations of air pollution that expose local communities to heightened health risks;
- Protecting the health and livelihoods of communities and working families that have depended on the coal industry for jobs and revenues;
- Affordable clean energy for low and moderate-income communities.