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Rep. Veronica Escobar. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images
Rep. Veronica Escobar. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Veronica Escobar’s appointment to the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis is vital for equitable environmental legislation

Escobar is the only Latinx member of the committee.

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On Tuesday Jan. 26, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Texas Representative Veronica Escobar will join the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis during the 117th Congress

The Select Committee Chair, Rep. Kathy Castor, backed up the appointment and feels confident that Escobar’s vision for clean energy innovation will expand opportunities for communities of color, create new jobs and diminish pollution. 

“Her leadership is vital to ensuring our military has the tools necessary to protect America, and her push for solar energy research and development will benefit workers in Texas and across the country,” Castor said in a statement. 

Escobar’s appointment is even more vital given the past four years of environmental policy in the country.

During the 116th Congress, Democratic members and staff of the Select Committee revealed their plan for action concerning climate change, titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America.

It called on Congress to ensure that farmers can successfully combat the impacts of climate change, protect the nation’s lands and waters for generations to come, protect the health of all citizens, and advance our economy through clean energy jobs. 

The current state of climate justice is less than optimal, to put it lightly. The Trump administration’s anti-environmental agenda had devastating repercussions in communities across the country. 

Throughout his four years in the White House, Trump attempted to curtail more than 90 environmental rules and regulations concerning clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals. 

Between 2017 and 2019, there were 44 unique extreme weather and climate events with damages that cost the U.S more than $460 billion. 

The former administration also actively discredited the effects of climate change, and further contributed to the damage by loosening requirements for polluters emitting greenhouse gases. 

This is hazardous for all Americans, but Black and Latino Americans bear a significantly larger burden of air pollution, according to new research from a team led by the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota. 

These findings, published in March 2019 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exposed that the air pollution experienced by Black and Hispanic Americans is mainly being generated by non-Hispanic white Americans. 

The research was able to demonstrate for the first time the clear racial gap between who creates air pollution and who breathes it.

A more recent study found that high levels of air pollution have a direct correlation to a person’s likelihood of losing their life to COVID-19. 71% of the Black population and 80% of Latinos reside in areas which violate federal air pollution regulations, contributing even more to the health disparities faced by communities of color throughout the pandemic. 

These findings perfectly illustrate what is known as environmental racism, a term coined by the academic Robert Bullard.

Environmental racism refers to “policies, practices, or directives that differentially affect or disadvantage (whether intentionally or unintentionally) individuals, groups or communities based on race or color.” 

Diversity is essential in all areas of government, but when it comes to climate justice, it’s especially important for people of color to hold power. 

“I am thankful to Speaker Pelosi and Chair Castor for the opportunity to serve in the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis,” Escobar said. “I stand ready to work on bold and innovative environmental policies that benefit El Paso and communities across the country, combat the threat of climate change, and protect our planet for future generations.” 

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