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Elizabeth Warren unveils environmental justice plan

John Locher/AP

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday detailed a new environmental justice plan aimed at bolstering and protecting vulnerable communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.

“Our crisis of environmental injustice is the result of decades of discrimination and environmental racism compounding in communities that have been overlooked for too long,” Warren writes in a Medium post.

The Massachusetts Democrat would direct one-third of her proposed climate investment to the most vulnerable communities, which she writes would funnel at least $1 trillion into those areas over the next decade.

Warren’s Wednesday release offers new insight into how she would use presidential powers to orchestrate what climate activists often call a “just transition” toward a green energy economy. While covering a broad range of policy issues, the post is primarily focused on what her administration would do to prioritize neighborhoods, cities and entire regions with heavy minority populations — many of them still suffering from the effects of racist policies like redlining, which often placed families of color in harm’s way.

Throughout her campaign, Warren has frequently sought to weave in detailed proposals directed specifically at communities of color. Here, she warns that “‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions,” though often well-intentioned, open up space for the exploitation of those minorities and the poor. Because of that, Warren argues, more narrowly “targeted” policies are required.

“The same communities that have borne the brunt of industrial pollution are now on the front lines of climate change, often getting hit first and worst,” writes Warren, an early supporter of the sweeping Green New Deal proposal .

Warren on Tuesday tweeted a video filmed during a recent visit to Detroit, where she and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib walk around a zip code that Tlaib refers to as the “most polluted” in the state.

If elected president, Warren writes she would mandate all federal agencies to consider climate impacts in their permitting and rulemaking processes. When tribal nations are involved, Warren writes, projects would not proceed unless “developers have obtained the free, prior and informed consent of the tribal governments concerned.”

Warren also would prioritize environmental justice at the presidential level, and transform the Council on Environmental Quality into a Council on Climate Action, which would have a more broad mandate. She writes that a Warren administration would aggressively pursue cases of environmental discrimination, and would fully fund the Centers for Disease Control’s environmental health programs.

Warren last month embraced former 2020 opponent Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s 10-year climate plan, while also expanding on his blueprint with a series of additional investments to offer additional protections to workers and help fund a radical transition of American infrastructure and industry away from fossil fuels.

In the plan, the senator commits to providing job training and guaranteed wage and benefit parity for workers transitioning into new industries. “Coal miners, oil rig workers, pipeline builders and millions of other workers have given their life’s blood to build the infrastructure that powered the American economy throughout the 20th century. In return, they deserve more than platitudes,” Warren writes.

Warren writes she would defend worker pensions, benefits, and a secure retirement. She would reinstate the work safety rules and regulations that President Donald Trump’s administration eliminated.

Additionally, her plan would fund access to clean water, increase and enforce water quality standards, and invest in the US’s public water systems.

“Our clean drinking water challenge goes beyond lead, and beyond Flint and Newark,” Warren writes. The senator says she would refurbish old water infrastructure, support ongoing water treatment operations and prioritize communities most heavily impacted by inadequate water infrastructure.

Further, Warren’s plan would make it easier for residents to move out of flood-prone properties, and reform post-disaster housing assistance to better protect renters. She pledges to put strong protections in place to ensure federal tax dollars go toward community recovery, “not to line the pockets of contractors.” Warren says in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “disaster scammers and profiteers swarmed,” trying to make money off of the disaster.

Warren would reinstitute the Superfund Waste Tax. “Polluters must pay for the consequences of their actions — not leave them for the communities to clean up,” she writes.

Her plan also would hold the financial industry accountable for its role in the climate crisis. Her Climate Risk Disclosure Act would, according to the plan, “require banks and other companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and price their exposure to climate risk into their valuations, raising public awareness of just how dependent our economy is on fossil fuels.”

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