Washington State has just enacted a major environmental justice law, making it the latest in a growing chorus of states to do so. The new law is designed to address the fact that low-income and minority communities often bear the brunt of environmental pollution and contamination. This has long been a problem in Washington, where many such communities have faced health and safety risks from industrial development and other sources of pollution.
The Washington Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, requires state agencies to take into account the health disparities between different communities when making decisions about environmental regulations. This will help ensure that those who are most vulnerable to pollution will be protected from it. A task force is studying environmental justice issues and making recommendations on how to address them. The ideal version of the task force is one made up of representatives from different communities that has the power to investigate environmental problems and make recommendations to state agencies.
This is just one example of the growing movement for environmental justice at the state level. In recent years, a number of states have enacted similar laws or established commissions to study environmental justice issues. This trend is likely to continue as more communities wake up to the fact that they have been bearing the brunt of environmental pollution for far too long. Washington’s new law is a major step in the right direction, and it sets an important precedent for other states to follow.
The entire application of agency environmental justice assessments will be shaped over the coming years through a number of working groups, both interagency and through a soon-to-be-established council of delegates. They will decide what the appropriate triggers for justice assessments should be, in which case agencies will be required to:
- Gather data on environmental health disparities
- Identify communities disproportionally impacted by environmental pollution and contamination
- Consider the impact of their decisions on these communities
- Make efforts to reduce or eliminate environmental health disparities.
- Cooperate with the task force
- Address the findings and recommendations of the task force
- Collect data on environmental health disparities
The Washington Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act is a strong step forward in protecting the rights of all Washingtonians to clean air, water, and land. It is hoped that other states will follow suit and enact similar laws to protect their own citizens from environmental injustice.
Key to this process is the ability to ensure that citizen voices are heard in the decision-making process. We hope that agencies across the board will follow Washington’s lead and encourage similarly minded discussions to protect their own citizens. Transparency is paramount for such a process to experience any sort of longevity.
The reality is, citizen input will be critical for any law to have its intended effect. We urge all citizens to get involved in this process at every level and make sure their voices are heard. Only then can we hope to achieve change. But being able to organize this interaction in a filterable, searchable way is now just as necessary as the decentralized activism itself.
SmartComment can help your agency or organization with public comment solutions that are:
All agencies need comprehensive comment support. Our innovative tool ensures transparency and accessibility for citizens and provides agencies with an unassailable method for effectively and efficiently responding to public comments.
This is where the role of service itself comes in.
When we help our neighbors, or volunteer our time to worthy causes, we are contributing to the common good. We are making our communities better places to live for everyone, not just ourselves.
Smartcomment’s tools allow this process to take place in an essentially frictionless environment where everyone is heard and centralized authorities have the ability to respond in real time. Regardless of where or when comments are made.
This is why the ability to facilitate the fight for environmental justice is so important at a technological level—because it’s a microcosm of a greater trend towards centralized authorities needing to respond directly to decentralized feedback.
At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that everyone has access to clean air, water, and land; that our communities are safe from toxic pollution; and that we have a say in decisions that affect our lives and our environment. It’s about ensuring that our government works for all of us, not just the wealthy and powerful. And it’s about building a future in which we all can thrive.
SmartComment offers tools to facilitate all of this.
Besides allowing you to receive electronic comments, SmartComment accepts all traditional comment forms, including emails, letters, public hearing transcripts, hand-written comment cards, and even social media comments. If you are using Regulations.gov, our software can consume any comment related to your project so all comments are together in a secure database, assuring that no comment is missed.
For more information about how SmartComment can help you with public comment, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss our services with you and answer any questions you may have. Thanks for reading!