For almost 50 years, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has empowered laborers and minority communities across the United States to fight discrimination and demand better workplace safety.
Minority communities are disproportionately exposed to pollution and toxins on the job, at school, and in their homes. Half of all Latinos live in this country’s most polluted cities, in areas where incinerators, power plants, and factories are clustered together.
NEPA protects these communities and workers by requiring project sponsors to engage in an environmental review process intended to identify any major environmental impacts and significant dangers to workplace safety prior to the start of construction. It is a law that requires the government to do its homework before building, a key part of which is consulting local communities and workers.
Through a careful analysis of a project’s potential impacts and review of alternatives alongside mandate mechanism designed to maximize public input, NEPA ensures that our energy and transportation infrastructure is built to last with the health and safety of our workers and local communities in mind.
When projects are excluded from NEPA review and due diligence is not done, the consequences can be disastrous. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 people, sickened hundreds of clean-up workers, and spilled 4.9 million barrels of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico, is one such example.
The risk of disasters such as these can be mitigated, but it requires bringing every stakeholder to the table – not just corporate developers. Latino and minority workers make up over half of all ground, maintenance, and construction workers; without their input and expertise, we will continue to struggle to build resilient infrastructure that works for our communities.
Ensures Fair, Prevailing Wages
Empowers minority communities
NEPA doesn’t just protect US citizens – it protects everyone. It protects the health and safety of every family and community that stands to be threatened, regardless of citizenship status.
When a new power plant is being developed, NEPA demands appropriate workplace safety. When an immigration detention center is planned, NEPA demands health care for its detainees. When the current Trump administration wants to militarize the border and build a wall, NEPA exposes it for what it really is: a hateful waste of money.
NEPA isn’t just an environmental protection statute, it’s a critical tool for civic engagement that we cannot afford to lose. Shortcutting environmental reviews doesn’t just cost taxpayer money, it jeopardizes worker safety as well as the health of our local communities.