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Governor McKee announces a new environmental justice committee
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Governor McKee announces a new environmental justice committee

Governor Dan McKee announced creation of an environmental justice committee through The Executive Climate Change Coordinating CouncilIn a Jan. 19 news release. According to its website, EC4 is committed to incorporating climate considerations in all state government operations. It also develops practical solutions that will allow Rhode Island weather the storm of climate changes. Website. The committee was announced as part $150 millionIn funding to combat climate change in McKees budget for fiscal year 2023

McKee believes all Rhode Islanders, regardless of income, race or ethnicity, have the right to live in a clean, healthy environment. No community should suffer from adverse environmental and health consequences, Matt Sheaff (a spokesperson for McKee) wrote to The Herald. He said that the governor looks forward to working with the Rhode Island General Assembly leaders to pass the more than $150,000,000 in specific remedies to address climate change and environmental injustices.

Terry Gray, Chair of EC4 & Acting director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said that the committee members have yet to be selected. Gray stressed the importance to include community members affected by environmental injustices as part of this group. These communities have historically been underrepresented in these discussions. I believe it will provide valuable feedback to us by creating an advisory board that truly looks at climate change through the eyes of these communities.

Gray said that he expected the new committee to be formed within the next few weeks. Gray stated that we will likely look at a mixture of neighborhood advocates and very local advocates to make sure we have the right perspectives to help us make the right decision.

Gray stated that he expects the new advisory board to evaluate the broader work and provide a different perspective on how that (work impacts) environmental justice communities.

Despite McKee’s optimistic announcement, April Brown, Director of Providence’s Racial and Environmental Justice Committee of Providence, expressed concern about the prospects of the new advisory boards. We think the governor’s new committee is a positive first step. We were not convinced, however, that they were serious.

REJC has been around for five years. She said that they were hiding in plain sight. Yet, we were not consulted about how the city could implement environmental justice.

She described fighting for environmental justice daily work that cannot be done in a hurry.

Professor of Environmental Studies, Sociology J. Timmons Roberts claims that the state government has not taken adequate action in the past to ensure environmental justice. He wrote an email to The Herald, acknowledging that the issue was being discussed, but not addressing it. He described the new EC4 Committee as a “start”.

Gray, Roberts, and Brown all highlighted the Port of Providence’s role in environmental injustices in the city. Roberts said that the Port of Providence has an adverse effect on the south Providence communities of minorities.

It is true that the Port of Providence is still in a working state. Brown stated that until that issue is resolved, we believe that the state and city are not serious about climate justice for the city of Providence.

Gray stated that transportation pollution is one of the most important environmental issues in the state. Gray stated that many of our environmental justice groups are located near our busiest and congested highways. Gray said that the new committee could address this issue by developing plans for meeting emission reduction targets in transportation. He said that these changes could result in health improvements and improved air quality for many communities (the states environmental justice).

Gray pointed out that the state needs to place more emphasis on equity in its environmental planning. He said that we need to examine how equity and justice are reflected in climate change mitigation efforts.

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