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Rep. Nanette Barragán, R-Calif., speaks during the Climate Strike protest at the U.S. Capitol on Friday September 20, 2019. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Rep. Nanette Barragán, R-Calif., speaks during the Climate Strike protest at the U.S. Capitol on Friday September 20, 2019. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Nanette Barragán introduces her third climate and environmental justice bill in 117th Congress

Barragán’s initiative comes as the Biden administration seeks funding increase for environmental protections.

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U.S. Representative Nanette Barragán has introduced a new climate-justice bill to fight the disproportionate impact of environmental racism on low-income and communities of color, oftentimes the most affected by climate change.

The bill, according to Barragán, addresses these inequities by authorizing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support those hardest-hit by climate change and environmental pollution. 

Called The Climate Justice Grants Act, it  would create and authorize a 10-year Climate Justice Grants program at the EPA, providing $1 billion per year in climate justice grants for projects and initiatives proposed by environmental justice communities. 

Grant recipients can accept up to $2 million for community clean energy projects, weatherization, home and building electrification, energy storage projects, electric vehicle deployment, installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, building natural infrastructure, and climate resilient infrastructure. 

This bill is based on an amendment Barragán proposed to the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act of 2020, which has been included in the Environmental Justice subtitle of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s CLEAN Future Act.

After becoming chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Climate Change Task Force, Barragán has continued her climate efforts in Congress. In the last year, she introduced or co-sponsored a number of climate-focused bills, often rooted in racial equity. 

These include the Energy Resilient Communities Act, co-sponsored with Rep. Yvette C. Clarke (D-NY) and the Climate Smart Ports Act. All three, including the Climate Justice grants Act, have been included in the CLEAN Future Act.

Her bill comes as President Joe Biden’s administration seeks a funding increase for environmental protections within its $1.5 trillion federal spending plan for later in the year. The budget requests to set aside $14 billion across the government in such protections. 

Biden’s request would provide efforts to reduce carbon emissions and research clean-energy technologies, boost climate-change-focused programs, including the EPA, which faced huge funding cuts over the past decade.

Biden’s administration is requesting a roughly 21% increase in its funding, which would support a new $936 million environmental justice initiative that promises to hold polluters accountable, according to the White House. 

This month Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) also called on the EPA and the Department of Justice to improve its enforcement of environmental laws, which affect BIPOC and low income communities at inflated rates. In a letter, Padilla urged the DOJ and EPA to improve the enforcement and to “hold polluters accountable” for their crimes against these communities.

Latino representatives were among the most active climate advocates in 2020 and they continue to do so in 2021. Data on the climate crisis continues to prove that it will affect BIPOC demographics the most, whether it be via a refugee crisis or those in vulnerable positions within the country subjected to unequal environmental stressors.  

While more sweeping measures like the Green New Deal remain at a standstill, targeted measures like the ones Barragán and Padilla have backed have more opportunity for movement in the divided Congress.

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