City launches an advisory commission on environmental justice | Office of Sustainability
PHILADELPHIA – Today, the City of Philadelphia launched the city’s first Environmental Justice Advisory Commission (EJAC), a historic step in the city’s commitment to support frontline community leadership in the fight against environmental damage. Alongside the launch, the city announced the creation of an interagency Environmental Justice Task Force and Community Resilience and Environmental Justice Grant Fund to affirm the city’s commitment to pursuing justice. environment for all Philadelphians.
“Philadelphia is committed to ensuring that all residents are equitably protected from environmental harm,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “With the creation of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board, the Interagency Environmental Justice Task Force, and a Community Resilience and Environmental Justice Grant Fund, I am proud that our city is taking concrete steps to address to past injustices and create a more resilient future.
Low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with multiple environmental burdens and disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Part of this stems from Philadelphia’s industrial past combined with racist and discriminatory policies and practices such as exclusionary zoning, race pacts, and redlining. The consequences are that these communities often face unequal health burdens seen through indicators such as rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease and premature death.
In 2019, the city passed legislation creating an Environmental Justice Commission to provide recommendations to the Mayor, City Council, and Office of Sustainability to investigate, report, and resolve environmental justice issues in Philadelphia. The launch of the full EJAC comes after three years of dedicated volunteer work with community stakeholders and environmental justice experts through the Office of Sustainability’s Environmental Justice Task Force. Their service made possible a community-led process to establish the EJAC, establishing a solid foundation for environmental justice on which to build for years to come. The 17 members selected by the task force to serve on the EJAC will work together with the support of a new position of Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice in the Office of Sustainability to set an agenda for future work. .
The residents selected to sit on the EJAC are:
- John A.Armstead
- Nahdir Austin
- Radika Bhaskar
- Paul Devine Botton
- Carlos Claussell
- Mariel Diana Featherstone
- Ebony Griffin
- Terrill Haigler
- Joyce Lee
- Su Ly
- Caroline Mosley
- Kermit O
- Gabriella Gabriel Paez
- Tyler Ray
- Kinteshia Scott
- Jerome Shabazz
- Syreeta Thomas
To partner with this resident-led commission, the City is launching an interagency environmental justice task force to strengthen efforts to address current and historic environmental injustice across government. This task force will bring together cross-departmental leaders to improve City practices, programs and policies in collaboration with the Environmental Justice Advisory Commission to advance equitable outcomes. Together, these two organizations will work to address the burden of environmental damage, past and present, that compromises the well-being of Philadelphia residents.
“In Philadelphia, your ZIP code determines your life expectancy, and environmental injustice has often been overlooked as a crucial part of community health and well-being,” said Council Member Katherine Gilmore Richardson (at-Large), Chair of the City Council Committee on the Environment. “With this new Commission and the creation of the Interagency Task Force on Environmental Justice, we are taking another step towards creating a whole-of-government approach to addressing environmental injustice and, more importantly, we are focusing the voices of members of the community who have had experience with its impacts. Thank you to Mayor Kenney for his leadership on this issue, and to all Commission members for their service to the City of Philadelphia. I look forward to continuing to work together.
The City also recognizes the need to invest in the grassroots activism that residents living on the front lines of environmental damage engage in on a daily basis. As such, the City is establishing a Community Resilience and Environmental Justice Grant Fund dedicated to resourcing frontline communities experiencing environmental injustice to advance their vision of an equitable and resilient future. The grant fund will be led by EJAC and supported by the Office of Sustainability, with the aim of launching later this year.
“Every day we witness the resilience of communities in the face of overlapping inequalities that require collective focus and aggressive action at the intersection of racial equity, public health and environmental protection” , said Director of Resilience for the City of Philadelphia Saleem Chapman. “The substantial progress made today recognizes the power of this persistence – our success in overcoming the ongoing struggle against environmental injustice depends on our ability to tap into this wisdom.”
The City looks forward to collaborating with the Environmental Justice Advisory Board in future work and encourages residents to stay involved and up-to-date with its efforts in subscription to the mailing list for the latest news and events.