Payne, Jr. Speaks at CBC Special Order Hour on Environmental Justice


During their special order hour on May 1, 2017, the Congressional Black Caucus highlighted all we have to lose under a Trump Administration, focusing on environmental justice issues, as well as the actions taken by the administration in its first 100 days. A video and excerpts from Congressman Donald Payne, Jr.’s remarks can be found below. 

Click here to watch the video.

Last month, as part of our partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, I wrote an op-ed on environmental justice issues. I’ll repeat what I wrote then, which is that environmental justice should be a national priority, not a problem confined to minority communities.


African-American communities are disproportionately burdened by pollutants.


Across the nation, communities of color suffer from higher rates of exposure to air pollution, higher rates of lead poisoning, and higher rates of water pollution.


Every single day, children in my home city of Newark, New Jersey are exposed to harmful levels of pollution from the port and other sources that rob them of their health, just because of where they live.


One in four Newark children has asthma. The hospitalization rate for Newark children is 30 times the rate nationwide. Asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism for school-age children in Newark.


Yet too often, environmental justice is an afterthought—or, often, it’s missing entirely in discussions on the challenges facing African Americans.


The Trump administration threatens to make the problem even worse.


President Trump has prioritized rolling back environmental regulations, from emissions rules for power plants to the mandate that federal decision-making must take into consideration climate change impacts.

President Trump proposed slashing the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, cutting enforcement of the agency’s clean air laws by $129 million.

With threats of excessive cuts to the EPA, air quality across the nation may be worse than expected.


In the American Lung Association’s “State of Air” report, my district and many other metropolitan areas ranked as having the most polluted air in the country.


However, only one-third of counties have ozone or particle pollution air monitors. We must fight to ensure funding for more air monitors for our communities.


So, what can we do to protect our communities from environmental degradation?


Newark’s City Council passed a first-in-the-nation ordinance requiring developers that request environmental permits to inform the city of any environmental impacts. As a result, decision-makers and the public will be able to make informed decisions about sustainable development. Other municipalities would be smart to follow Newark’s example.


Last November, I joined Amy Goldsmith and Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action and the Coalition for Healthy Ports for an environmental justice tour of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Organizations like theirs are doing excellent work in the fight against health-threatening pollution. Expanding partnerships on environmental justice initiatives must be a central part of our strategy to secure environmental protections.


To those listening at home: I encourage you to make it clear to your elected officials that you will hold them accountable for any efforts to dismantle environmental protections and any failures to fight for environmental justice.



The hospitalization rate for Newark children with asthma is 30 times the rate nationwide. That’s almost criminal.


My family has not just heard about it, we’ve lived it. I’m the father of triplets. My middle son has grown up with asthma. There were days when we had to keep him inside. He’s been fortunate not to have had many asthma attacks throughout his childhood, but there was one that I did see that brought me to tears. And to know that there are countless children throughout this country who don’t have the opportunity to go to the doctor, who rush to the hospital with asthma attacks, and who sometimes don’t make it to the doctor, is just devastating. To think that that could be my boy brings sadness to my heart.


I’m willing to make this fight, not just for my son, but for the hundreds of thousands of children throughout this country who suffer from this disease.

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