Excerpt from Virginia Seeks Agencies’ 'Lasting’ Environmental Justice Policy
Published on September 15, 2020 in Bloomberg Law
‘This Is About Framing’
Sarah Hunt, who backs conservative energy and climate solutions as CEO of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy, said Republicans across many states could support at least some policies—typically those that provide disadvantaged communities more participation in policy decisions or more transparency about how their communities are being impacted by pollution.
The way forward is similar to how both parties have come together at times to combat climate change, she said in an interview. Republicans, even those skeptical of climate action, can back policies such as enhanced energy efficiency or clean energy incentives when they aren’t depicted as only solutions to climate change.
“This is about framing. In blue states, an initiative may be touted as an environmental justice measure, but the same policy may not be viewed as an environmental justice issue in a red state,” where it can be framed is simply providing citizens more access to information, such as pollution data, Hunt said.
At the state level, even some Republicans have sought to inject environmental justice considerations in environmental decisions.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Aug. 18 signed an agreement with surrounding states working to clean up the Chesapeake Bay to recruit leadership, staff, appointees and volunteers in the cleanup effort “that reflect the diversity of people living within the Chesapeake Bay region.”
The multistate agreement also pledges to ensure benefits of restoration and other programs “are distributed in a fair and equitable manner without adverse, disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations” including historically underrepresented communities and people of color, according to a statement from the Chesapeake Executive Council.
But in at least one state, environmental justice has met with GOP resistance. Arizona Rep. John Fillmore (R) last year introduced a bill that would bar schools from including any discussion of “economic and social implications” regarding environmental topics.