New MODEL Bills Provide Framework for Achieving Environmental Equity

In a collaborative effort, WE ACT for Environmental Justice and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law have introduced an initiative known as the “model for optimizing and designing environmental legislation” (MODEL) bills. WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a membership-based organization in New York, focused on engaging people of color and/or low-income residents in environmental health and protection policies and practices. The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law is located at Columbia Law School in New York and focuses their research and advocacy on advancing legal solutions to climate change. These pieces of legislation are strategically tailored to confront the intricate challenge of cumulative impacts on both local and state levels. With a focus on environmental justice, the five MODEL bills are poised to offer states invaluable guidance for shaping and enhancing their own environmental policies.

These bills encompass a comprehensive range of measures designed to foster equitable distribution of environmental burdens and empower marginalized communities. The aspects of each bill include:

  • Addressing Zoning and Permit Approvals: Aiming to rectify the often-problematic practices of as-of-right zoning and grandfathered permit approvals for existing facilities, this bill is geared towards preventing environmental inequalities that can result from regulatory loopholes.
  • Indirect Source Air Permitting: By mandating indirect source air permitting for facility modifications that increase vehicular traffic within environmental justice (EJ) areas, this bill recognizes the importance of evaluating and mitigating transportation-related emissions.
  • Establishing Environmental Advisory Boards: Through the establishment of Environmental Advisory Boards, this bill creates a platform for direct engagement between local communities and decision-makers. This seeks to ensure that the voices of affected communities are integral to environmental decision-making processes.
  • Cumulative Impact Analyses for Permit Renewals: With a focus on renewing permits within environmental justice areas, this bill underscores the significance of cumulative impact assessments. This approach provides an understanding of the combined effects of multiple pollution sources.
  • State EPA Responsibilities: Demanding transparency and accountability, this bill requires State Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) to identify, publish, and address areas disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards. This encompasses the publication of cumulative impact reports and recommendations for hazard mitigation.

Drawing from successful legislation in New York and New Jersey, these MODEL bills seek to emerge as a model for achieving greater equity in environmental matters. For a more in-depth exploration of these bills and their implications within various states, additional information can be accessed at Environmental Justice State by State Law Library & Database ( Industrial facilities can take proactive steps to prepare for increased environmental justice enforcement by incorporating sustainable practices, community engagement, and compliance measures into their operations.

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If you have questions as to what this might mean for your organization, please reach out to Liz Hoerning.

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