Senator Booker Announces The Environmental Justice Act of 2017

On October 23rd U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was joined by local community leaders and advocates from across New Jersey and the nation in announcing a landmark bill that represents a major step toward eliminating environmental injustice.

This Bill would strengthen protections for communities of color, low-income communities and indigenous communities.

More specifically the Bill: 

  • Codifies and expands the 1994 Executive Order on Environmental Justice.

  • Codifies the existing National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) and environmental justice grant programs.

  • Establishes requirements for federal agencies to address environmental justice.

  • Requires consideration of cumulative impacts and persistent violations in federal or state permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

  • Clarifies that communities impacted by events like the Flint water crisis may bring statutory claims for damages and common law claims in addition to requesting injunctive relief.

  • Reinstates a private right of action for discriminatory practices under the Civil Rights Act.

“For too long low income and communities of color in this country have suffered under the weight of cumulative, chronic and disproportionate pollution. This bill is a reminder of how critical it is to protect and restore these communities,” said Ana Baptista, Board Member, Ironbound Community Corporation.

“We must adopt substantive policies that will provide protections for communities Of Color and low-income communities from harmful pollution. This bill would help those communities and we hope everybody gives it the serious consideration it deserves,” said Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq., New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.

“As a Newark School Board member and a mother of 3 kids with asthma, it’s clear environmental justice is a civil right. In my city and so many other EJ communities, there’s too much lead in our drinking water, raw sewage in our waterways and diesel emissions sending kids to the ER. Those are the kind of cumulative impacts Senator Booker’s legislation takes on,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action’s Environmental Justice Organizing Director.


More information:



From Ecuador to Seattle, a mother driven by belief in the right to a healthy environment

Share Paulina’s interview and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

Paulina López moved to Seattle from Ecuador, where she was involved in community organizing with indigenous people on issues such as health and education. She is the mother of three boys in elementary school and has contributed her time for a decade as the volunteer president for South Park Information Resource Center, a grassroots community organization that supports the civic engagement of recent immigrants, with special focus on women. She is passionate about advocating for underrepresented communities, and has been concerned with environmental justice issues uniquely affecting South Park’s recent immigrant communities, such as the clean-up of the Duwamish River.

Paulina was interviewed by Dionne Foster, who was a Policy Analyst at Puget Sound Sage at the time of the interview (and now works for the city of Seattle), about what motivated her activism and what hopes she has for the future. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on

PAULINE LOPEZ: A long time ago, when I moved here to South Park, I realized the need we had to get people more involved in civic engagement, civic process – just people more involved in how to build a community.


Big decisions were being (made) and the neighbors were not being part of the decisions. For example, in 2005 there was a big document that the city was writing on how to make South Park a better community, and the participation from Latinos was zero. So I started to wonder, “Why are the voices of the main population that exists in South Park not at the table?” … and that’s how the South Park Information Resource Center came up.


Unfortunately the environment is very poor … I love my neighborhood, I love South Park, but it does make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing by having your little ones here.


One of the things that struck me once – I was talking to a teenager, and we were explaining about the asthma rates being so high in South Park, and she was saying, “You know I always grew up with asthma but I thought it was a normal thing because all my classmates in school have it.” And I thought, “What?!” It can be so big that they think it’s a normal part of life to have asthma.


South Park has a lot of needs, but I always concentrate on the assets. We have a very strong community of advocates … We have a very large immigrant and refugee population here … The Vietnamese population is closer to the highway so they were very concerned about emissions from the trucks. They have been very active on what can we do to improve. They’ve been giving us ideas. So I think it’s been important to hear from everyone.


Sometimes words like “environmental justice” doesn’t really read to them until you explain: “health” for you. “Oh, health, yes, health, I’m very worried about the health of my kids.” So I hope whatever we can do together will benefit the grassroots level of our community in ways that will be meaningful to them.

PLEASE JOIN Paulina López and Dionne Foster in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work Paulina and Dionne are doing to improve the quality of life in Seattle by following South Park Information and Resource Center and Puget Sound Sage.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.

Take a cruise and pollute the cities you love (unless you choose carefully)!

Photo by By kees torn – Harmony of the Seas, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Most cruise ships are huge polluters. They typically burn high-sulfur bunker fuel while at sea, and switch to lower sulfur bunker fuel when within 200 miles of the US coast.

However, even low sulfur bunker fuel has 100 times the toxic sulfur of a diesel truck, and also contains the toxic metals nickel and vanadium, which, as we recently reported in Children near ports may suffer lung damage from ships burning fuel oil, are suspected of causing lung damage to children.

Emissions from a large cruise ship compared to the equivalent numbers of cars, the Guardian


Like container ships, cruise ships are getting bigger and dirtier with each generation. For example, experts say that huge new Royal Caribbean “Harmony of the Seas” cruise ship  probably emits more sulphur than several million cars, more NO2 gas than all the traffic passing through a medium-sized town and more particulate emissions than thousands of buses.

Pollution from cruise ships has resulted in battles in some cities, such as Charleston SC, where cruise ship air pollution threatens the health of those in and near the city’s historic district, and the port authority has vigorously fought efforts to install shore power so cruise ship engines can be shut down while in port, or to dock cruise ships further from town.

Given the bad actors in the industry (both cruise lines and port authorities), what can you do to avoid contributing to the problem?

One approach is to travel by another mode.  Air travel, for example, is much less polluting than travel by ship.  But if you must cruise, check to see if your cruise line has the capabilities of running on shore power (also called cold ironing), and if they can use it in the ports your cruise will visit.

To learn more, check out a few of the resources below:

The Guardian Harmony of the Seas launch inconsistent with Royal Caribbean’s commitment to sustainability, Friends of the Earth

The world’s largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem, The Guardian

Massive cruise liners ‘each spew out as much sulphurous emissions gas per day as 376 MILLION cars’ it is revealed as experts call for action on the pollution they cause in port cities, Daily Mail

Charleston port tries to prevent shoreside power for cruise ships, despite pollution reductions, Southern Environmental Law Center

The Earth Thanks You: More Cruise Ports Are Going Green, Cruise Critic, a directory of environmentally friendly vacations

The shipping industry may soon be forced to cut its air pollution emissions

International shipping is a case study in uncosted externalities – costs imposed on others by those who profit from an economic activity.  

While shipping generates huge amounts of revenue – $155 billion annually for the containerized shipping industry alone –  global shipping emits huge quantities of global-warming carbon dioxide (see chart below), and its other air pollution kills an estimated 60,000 people per year and costs the world as much as $300 billion annually in lung and heart disease alone.

World CO2 Emissions by Sector, IEA

Source: International Energy Agency

Huge increases in shipping and its air pollution emissions are projected in coming years. Container shipping to and from the US is projected to increase 300 percent between 2010 and 2040, and international shipping emissions  are expected to increase by 50 to 250 percent by 2050.  By that year shipping is projected to be responsible for almost a fifth of worldwide air pollution.

In spite of international shipping’s horrible toll on human health and global warming, and its growing threat, the shipping industry and many of the nations that support it have thus far successfully fought efforts to cut air pollution emissions.  Thanks to the recalcitrance of the U.N. International Maritime Organization, the Paris climate agreement included no caps on shipping emissions.

The problem isn’t technological.  During the economic slump after 2006, one major shipping fleet cut their CO2 emissions by 30 percent simply by running their ships more slowly.

But that may soon change. Pressure is building to force the shipping industry to set targets for capping CO2 emissions, which will affect other air pollution emissions as well.  For the latest on these developments, see the references below.

Experts Say Shipping, Aviation Emissions Must Peak Soon to Achieve Paris Goals, UN Climate Change Newsroom

Can the shipping industry cut its own emissions?, Deutsche Welle 

After Paris, A Move to Rein In Emissions by Ships and Planes, Yale University Environment 360

Transport Emissions Must Peak Soon to Hit Paris Targets, Environment News Service