On Environmental Justice in the State
Dear Editor, President Spilka and Speaker DeLeo:
As a diverse group of city and town elected officials representing hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents, we write in support of environmental justice (EJ) legislation for our communities — specifically H. 4264, S. 464, and S. 453. We thank the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Committee for reporting these bills favorably to the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees back in December 2019.
These environmental justice bills are a necessary resolution to decades of disparate environmental impacts on low-income, English-isolated communities, and communities of color in Massachusetts. Inequalities in the Commonwealth continue to worsen–our zip code often influences how clean our air is, how much open space we have access to, and generally how healthy our communities are. Too often t rash burning incinerators, landfills, and polluting power plants are placed in low-income and communities of color without enough transparency and a lack of resident engagement in decision-making processes. We can and must do better.
The legislation we are supporting will:
1. Protect Communities from More Pollution by expanding the requirements for state environmental review to include the potential for equitable outcomes when deciding whether to prohibit polluting projects and approve benefits, such as expanded green space and resources. The legislation would add a definition of EJ population to state law.
2. Reduce Public Health Inequities in Overburdened Communities by requiring identification of adverse short- and long-term health consequences of a proposed project and measures to minimize public health damage. The Act further requires analysis of cumulative impact and effects of climate change on EJ populations.
3. Increase Access to Government and Information by asking polluters to pay for translation of written information into languages spoken by nearby residents and interpretation at public meetings so that everyone can learn about a project and share their opinion with decision makers. The Act also requires public meetings to be held in convenient locations at times when people are able to attend.
All people have a right to be protected from environmental pollution, to live and work in a healthy environment, and to enjoy parks and nature. The communities we represent can’t wait any longer for protections, especially during this public health crisis we all face.
We look forward to working with you to address environmental justice this session. We appreciate your time and consideration.
Tom Ambrosino, Chelsea City Manager
Martin Walsh, Boston Mayor
Roy Avellaneda, Chelsea Council President
Judith Garcia, Chelsea Council Vice President
Damali Vidot, Chelsea City Councillor
Kenzie Bok, Boston City Councilor
Andrea Campbell, Boston City Councilor
Michelle Wu, Boston City Councilor
Trump’s Immigration Executive Order Misses Mark in a Big Way
Last month, the Trump Administration issued an executive order suspending several categories of work visa’s through the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump’s order stands to have a negative impact on the American life science industry’s ability to continue to respond holistically to the crisis.
The most immediate issue that must be addressed is that the order does not specify that engineers, scientists and others with expertise in testing and manufacturing are exempt and able to travel to United States. Instead, the order only specifically exempts medical researchers and scientists involved in research to “directly” combat COVID-19.
In the 21st century, our pharmaceutical and medical communities are global. Research and development programs, partner alliances and manufacturing operations are coordinated across borders which means we need flexibility to safely move workers where they can be most effective, especially now.
COVID-19 will not be over for me until there is an effective vaccine distributed at scale, as I live with several chronic conditions. This is my reality and the reality for millions of other patients across the United States. Which is why the administration, at a bare minimum, must expand the order to allow for all necessary members of our medical community to be allowed to come to the United States.
There is simply no excuse to slow down medical progress during a global pandemic where science is our best hope to return to normalcy.