State Department of Energy and Environment releases strategy to address environmental inequality

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BOSTON — The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs released a 180-page document Thursday announcing a focus on efforts to reduce inequities in environmental justice communities across the commonwealth.

In a letter introducing the strategy, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper said the document represents “a new era in environmental and energy justice policy implementation” and that the document was open for public comment and consultation. He pointed out that it was formed by the session.

“For too long there have been low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous and tribal communities, and those isolated in the UK have borne the brunt of environmental harm and industrial pollution. Tepper wrote. “These communities, which have historically contributed the least to carbon emissions, are now facing disproportionately negative impacts from climate change.”

This document focuses on efforts aimed at advancing equity and environmental justice, analyzing projects and their impact on the environmental justice community, and measuring the success of efforts in the process. A key focus of the strategy is community engagement.

“This strategy aims to ensure the participation of those most affected by projects and policies,” said Maria Belen Power, Undersecretary of the Department of Environmental Justice and Equity.

Among the efforts highlighted in the report, the Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretariat said it wants to expand the Gateway City’s urban forest and foster stronger relationships with indigenous peoples.

“We are reversing decades and generations of environmental injustice,” Power said in a call with reporters Thursday afternoon. Ms. Power was recently appointed to her position.

Environmental justice communities are areas where more than 40% of the population is a member of a minority group, English fluency is low, and people have low incomes. Springfield is one such community.

Power noted that while the document strategizes a general roadmap for communities to practice environmental justice, the implementation of those strategies will vary from city to city.

“For example, the way Springfield executes its fish and game strategy is not the same as the way North Adams does it,” she said.

The strategy details “language access planning, staff training, and meaningful community engagement for all government agencies and offices across the EEA,” according to a press release from the ministry.

Access to subsidies will also increase.

Power said he ultimately wants to align the state with the Biden administration’s Justice 40 initiative to ensure that at least 40% of federal and state-level funding goes to low-income environmental justice communities.

“We need to not only ensure that the most disadvantaged areas apply for grants, but also distribute funding to these areas,” she said.

Starting this December, the Office of Environmental Justice will also release an annual progress report, and the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will update its strategy every three years.

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