Under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration is attempting to roll back significant environmental protections, including the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Car Standards, Endangered Species Act, and more. Make no mistake, these rollbacks will disproportionately affect Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities for the benefit of corporate polluters.
Race best predicts whether a person lives near polluted toxic sites (1). And Black Americans experience 56% more air pollution than others, relative to how much pollution they produce, while White Americans experience 17% less pollution than others, relative to what they produce (2). All the while, Black and Brown Americans are more likely to be alarmed or concerned about global warming than White Americans.
Black Americans experiencing more pollution than others is no coincidence. Decades of race-based zoning and housing policies redlined Black and Brown communities into neighborhoods closer to industrial zones, major highways, and waste (3). These areas are known as “Sacrifice Zones”: “fenceline communities” of low-income and people of color, or “hot spots” of chemical pollution where residents live immediately adjacent to heavily polluted industries or military bases, whose residents receive unequal protection (4).
On top of that, we also know that air pollution causes respiratory and cardiovascular issues that are the pre-existing conditions making individuals more susceptible to COVID-19 (5).
With an unprecedented public health and economic crisis underway at the local, state, and federal levels, we must prioritize protecting people, not provide a clear giveaway to corporate polluters.
The Trump administration’s decision to roll back environmental laws further threatens the health of our environment and communities across the country, especially low-income communities and communities of color bearing the burden of industrial pollution and COVID-19 impacts. From rolling back key vehicle efficiency standards to reducing our ability to protect communities against water pollution, the Trump administration is setting a dangerous precedent.
Washington Environmental Council