• July 21st, 2024
  • Sunday, 08:27:49 AM

Environmental Justice Coalition Says No More Delays


Photo: Mi Familia Vota Katara Burrola

 

Katara Burrola

 

Now that a summer has passed with some of the worst air quality in history, and our winter began with no precipitation, but was instead found with increasingly warmer temperatures, we know one truth; climate change is here right now. And there is another unfortunate fact; Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities have felt, and continue to feel, the worst of these burdens through our systemic oppression via government inaction.

 

It is no secret, climate change is here now due to 500 years of the systemic oppression of our collective communities.

 

I represent Mi Familia Vota, a non-partisan civic engagement nonprofit with the mission of building Latino political power in many fields including the environmental sector. But most importantly, I represent one of the above-mentioned Brown communities who are so disproportionately impacted by environmental burdens while simultaneously reaping almost no environmental benefits. Our people are having to work excessive hours just to get by, worry about our friends and family who are frequently found in the global south, and care for our younger generations; all while feeling ill due to how close we live to fracking sites, oil and gas plants, and populated highways that continuously blast our neighborhoods with smog through particulate matter, NOx, and carbon emissions. Because of this, it was somewhat of an easy decision when asked which part of our environment we should spend our small amount of free time cleaning up first. The air. We need clean air now.

 

Ironically, this year we should have the opportunity to fight for a pair of rules that require truck manufacturers to sell an increasing amount of zero-emission heavy- and medium-duty trucks to fleet owners (ACT), and for those trucks still running on fossil fuels to burn much cleaner (Low NOx Omnibus). Even though we know that every problem our communities face involving air quality cannot be solved at once, cleaning up the trucks along the highways would be a serious first win for our people’s health. And we are not the only ones who see this. A newly formed environmental justice coalition including Green Latinos, Womxn from the Mountain, NAACP Denver, Working Families Party, and Mi Familia Vota is urging the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to begin this rulemaking in Spring of this year. Although the AQCC has lifted up many reasons in favor of delaying this process, our coalition has been continuing outreach efforts (oftentimes in Spanish to monolingual residents who have otherwise been excluded from the conversation), and we have been working tirelessly to address issues of budget and infrastructure. However, we are adamant that just as our neighborhoods were systematically forced into the most polluted areas of the state through historic redlining, this process of cleaning up emissions along highways can be done in a fashion that systematically starts to restore the past and current injustices. This means no longer tokenizing Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, or tossing the words equity and environmental justice around, but instead beginning the rulemaking for our communities now, creating the necessary infrastructure in our communities first, and getting zero emission vehicles out onto the highways near us first. For this reason, our coalition along with the legal representation of Earthjustice, signed a petition asking the AQCC to expedite this rulemaking as soon as possible.

 

It is no secret, climate change is here now due to 500 years of the systemic oppression of our collective communities. The time for reparation is here and an opportunity to do so has arisen. We must finally be guaranteed environmentally safe livelihoods and we must see equity in practice through government action now.

 

 

Katara Burrola is an Environmental Justice Organizer with Mi Familia Vota.

 

 

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