As the Federal Climate Policy Working Group of the UM Creation Justice Movement (UMCJM) has discerned what federal policies to recommend for support by fellow United Methodists, the following criteria have risen to the top.
- First, is the policy in harmony with the official stances on creation justice of The United Methodist Church as reflected in our Social Principles and Book of Resolutions? Implicit in this is that our advocacy will grow out of love of neighbor and faithful stewardship of God’s good creation.
- Second, does the policy contribute to the deep reduction of climate-disrupting greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions no later than 2050? There is broad scientific consensus that this goal must be met to avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change.
- Third, does the policy address the impacts of climate change and potential solutions on vulnerable populations in the U.S. and throughout the world (especially lower-wealth communities and communities of color who are often the first to suffer from climate change and who have the fewest resources to recover from the harm caused), and does it assist communities economically dependent on the fossil fuel industry transition to a clean energy economy? This third criterion is a matter of climate/environmental justice.
It is unlikely that any single policy or piece of legislation will address both steep greenhouse gas reductions and climate justice sufficiently. Some combination of policies will be required to do that. However, no policy should act counter to those goals.
Based on these criteria, the UMCJM urges support at this time for two pieces of legislation that focus primarily on climate justice. (We are still evaluating legislation that specifically addresses deep reduction in greenhouse gases.) These are The Environmental Justice for All Act and the RECLAIM Act.
We urge you to email and/or call your representative and your two senators and ask them to support the Environmental Justice for All Act as well as your representative to support the RECLAIM Act (no bill in the Senate yet).
The Environmental Justice for All Act
(H.R. 2021 / no senate number yet, but can just say the name of the bill)
This bill puts environmental justice at the center of all federal action related to care for the environment, including addressing the climate crisis. It is rooted in the belief that all people have the right to pure air, clean water, and a livable climate.
- Amends and Strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination based on disparate environmental impacts and overturns the Supreme Court decision in Alexander v. Sandoval so that private citizens and organizations can seek legal remedy when faced with discrimination. A “disparate impact” is defined in the Act as “an action or practice that, even if appearing neutral, actually has the effect of subjecting persons to discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.”
- Requires the Consideration of Cumulative Impacts: Explicitly adds cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act and ensures that permits will not be issued if a project cannot demonstrate a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health.
- Codifies the Clinton Administration’s Environmental Justice Executive Order: It directs federal agencies to develop environmental justice strategies and regularly report on their implementation. It requires federal agencies to include persons from diverse communities in public health research, data collection, and analysis.
- Reinforces the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Requires federal agencies to provide early and meaningful involvement by members of environmental justice communities in actions impacting those communities, including Indian Tribes.
- Asserts Health Equity: Funds programs to study potentially harmful products marketed towards women and girls of color.
- Provides Outdoor Access for All: Establishes programs to ensure more equitable access to parks and the outdoors.
- Establishes Environmental Justice Grant Programs: Funds grants for research, education, and projects to address environmental and public health issues in environmental justice communities.
- Ensures a Fair and Just Transition: Establishes a Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund to support communities and workers as they transition away from fossil fuel-dependent economies.
The RECLAIM Act
(HR 1733 in the House) (not in Senate yet) (“Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act”)
The purpose of this bill is to speed up the timetable for allocating funds to provide restoration of land and water harmed by coal mining and to promote alternative economic revitalization, diversification, and development opportunities in coal-mining dependent communities.
This is a matter of justice for workers and communities who have worked hard and often suffered great harm to their health providing energy that we have all depended on. To fight climate change, it is necessary to move rapidly away from the use of coal to cleaner energy sources. However, for that transition to be just, society must alleviate the economic disruption these coal mining communities are undergoing both by helping to clean up the damage done to the land and by helping provide new opportunities for making a living. The RECLAIM Act is not enough by itself, but it is an important start.
Specifically, the bill directs spending hundreds of millions of dollars from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund over a five-year period for cleanup and economic revitalization purposes for mines in operation prior to 1977. One very important piece of this is that funding would be available for Indian Tribes which have faced chronic pollution and economic challenges related to the coal mining industry.
One additional thing to note about the RECLAIM Act is that it has bipartisan support, a rarity in today’s politically polarized world.
Please take action today by emailing or phoning your representative and your two senators and asking them to support these bills.
Rev. Paul Slentz, retired Pastor for Creation Care & Environmental Justice, Tennessee Conference and facilitator of the UMCJM Federal Climate Policy Working Group