UO prof testifies before Merkley-led subcommittee on environmental justice

First published in Around the O on July 26.

UO Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies Professor Laura Pulido, who holds the Collins Chair, testified before a congressional subcommittee July 22, offering members an overview of issues exacerbating environmental justice issues in the United States.

Pulido, who has studied environmental justice for more than 30 years, provided members of the Subcommittee of Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversite, chaired by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, with an update of some of the key issues.

Those include the cumulative effect of pollutants on particular neighborhoods, climate change and rising heat, and access to clean water. This was subcommittee’s first hearing since environmental justice was officially added to its name.

“Environmental justice refers to the fact that people of color and low-income populations in both urban and rural areas are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards,” Pulido testified. “Environmental justice is also the name of the movement that has arisen to challenge such injustices.”

According to a statement from Merkley’s office, the hearing topics emphasized the need to address discriminatory processes that make it especially difficult for communities of color to access federal resources needed to recover from catastrophic storms and fires. It also addressed the importance of responding to needs voiced by environmental justice communities; the need to enforce existing laws and regulations pertaining to clean air, water and soil; and how to best ensure that cleanup funding and resources reach tribal communities, among others.

“As climate chaos continues to ravage our country and our planet—from the 80 fires burning across 13 states, including the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, to more frequent, powerful, and destructive storms and flooding—we must recognize and address the fact that the worst consequences of this crisis disproportionately fall on communities of color and others with the fewest resources for adapting or recovering,” Merkley said in the statement. “I’m grateful that we are finally engaging in a long-overdue national conversation about environmental justice and the well-being of all of our communities, and am fully committed to doing everything I can as the Chair of this Subcommittee to ensure that action follows.”