Environmental justice cannot be achieved without eliminating the filibuster, advancing voting rights

Environmental justice cannot be achieved without eliminating the filibuster, advancing voting rights

This week, the White House announced that seven federal agencies would adopt clean energy initiatives to further the U.S.’ progress as it looks to achieve net-zero by 2050. The plans build on offshore wind energy projects like the Block Island Wind Farm, the country’s first wind farm, near Rhode Island. Much of the offshore land leases up for grabs are nearby. There will also be a power grid component and a pilot program developed to ensure that rural communities receive training to efficiently deploy clean energy solutions like rooftop solar panels. In a White House fact sheet, the Biden administration notes these initiatives are a helpful way to “deploy clean energy at a record pace,” but that such efforts pale in comparison to the progress that could be achieved were the Build Back Better Act to pass.

It’s not the only key piece of legislation on Biden’s agenda that faces seemingly insurmountable hurdles: On Thursday, the president seemed all but certain that key voting rights bills would not advance to his office because of an unwillingness from two Democratic senators—Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—to approve of changes to the filibuster. Both Manchin and Sinema have signaled they want to keep the filibuster intact, which is bad news not just for voting rights but the type of climate justice work that is centered within Build Back Better and the White House’s latest push for clean energy.

Speaking with E&E News, environmental justice advocate Dr. Robert Bullard noted there is no environmental justice without voting rights. “We see it as tied together, you know, civil rights and environmental justice,” said Bullard, who is considered the father of environmental justice. “Our environmental justice movement grew out of civil rights, and the fight for equal protection, the fight and the right to vote and not be intimidated, and not to be treated differently in that way.”

This is something Bullard, who serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and teaches at Texas Southern University, has been saying for years. In a 2018 interview with The Guardian about environmental justice, Bullard traced the movement’s roots to civil rights that include battling voter suppression tactics. Bullard connected segregation to which communities typically bear the brunt of pollution from manufacturing and fossil fuel plants. He also noted that “the most vulnerable are the least politically connected.”

“If you keep people of color off boards deciding the permits [for polluters] and if you have voter suppression, the outcomes are very predictable. You get this pattern that continues for decades. The only way to reverse that is to change the idea that communities of color are dumping grounds for pollution. Just because they are poor or a community of color, they shouldn’t suffer this injustice,” Bullard said. He considers voting to be a key tool in fighting for environmental justice.

There is no better way to ensure that disadvantaged communities get their voices heard than by ensuring they are able to participate in the democratic process. It’s almost too ironic that the filibuster—a tool used by racist lawmakers to block civil rights legislation that included anti-lynching bills and even threatened the Civil Rights Act of 1964—is being deployed to block the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

As Bullard so eloquently noted in his Guardian interview, the key to empowering communities and achieving environmental justice lies in giving power to the people, especially when it comes to their ability to cast their ballots. “Communities should realize they have collective power when they vote,” Bullard said. “Our elected officials need to understand our laws and need to apply them equally across the board. No community should be seen as compatible with pollution and poison.” During the 2020 election, Bullard played a key role in encouraging voter turnout by relaunching the Black Environmental Justice Network, which he co-founded with Damu Smith. The organization disbanded following Smith’s death in 2006 but since its reformation, it continues to honor Smith’s legacy and push for not just environmental justice but also for civil and human rights, of which voting is essential. Its platform includes promises to expand voter registration by advocating for “universal voter registration, pre-registration for 16-year-olds, same day and automatic voter registration.”

The U.S. could move much closer to reaching those goals were voting rights bills to pass. Call on lawmakers to pass voting rights legislation. It’s essential if we want a more equitable world, especially in the face of climate change.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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