Kamala Harris, AOC partnering on climate-justice bill

Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez disclosed a proposed bill Monday that seeks to protect low-income communities from the dangers posed by climate change.

Titled the Climate Equity Act, the plan would establish an independent Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability that would score all new environmental regulations for their impact on low-income communities.

Harris, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced the legislation Monday, two days before she is scheduled to appear at the party’s second primary debate this year, in Detroit.

In a statement, Harris added that “climate change is an existential threat — it’s critical we act now to achieve a cleaner, safer, and healthier future. But is is not enough to simply cut emissions and end our reliance on fossil fuels. We must ensure that communities already contending with unsafe drinking water, toxic air, and lack of economic opportunity are not left behind.”

The effects of climate change are expected to be felt hardest by the poor, who are less able to relocate or adapt to the environmental degradation posed by rising temperatures.

“One of the tenets of the Green New Deal is prioritizing vulnerable communities,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with the New York Times. “We have to talk about Flint. We have to talk about West Virginia. We have to talk about the Bronx and we have to talk about ways climate change manifests in our lives.”

Harris is not alone among the candidates for the Democratic nomination when it comes to singling out climate equity. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has made climate the centerpiece of his campaign.

In his own plan, former Vice President Joe Biden noted that “people of color and low-income communities are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. They are also less likely to have the funds to prepare for and recover from extreme weather.”

Biden would give those communities “preference in competitive grant programs,” his plan states.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote in her plan that “climate change is exacerbating inequality and injustice at home and abroad,” and proposed “prioritizing resources for frontline and disadvantaged communities that have been polluted and left behind by the fossil fuel economy.”

Inslee’s plan is itself titled “Community Climate Justice,” and is centered on the belief that climate change and growing economic inequalityare linked.

“The facts are clear: climate change and pollution disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color, and are major contributors to ongoing economic and racial inequality,” Inslee’s plan states.

Another ardent supporter of the Green New Deal, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has also linked climate change to racial inequality.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is sworn in
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is sworn in
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman Democrat representing New York's 14th Congressional District, takes a selfie with Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-NH, and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., laughs out loud as she talks with other new House members on the opening day of the 116th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, center, a freshman Democrat representing New York's 14th Congressional District, is flanked by Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., left, and Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., right, as they are sworn in on the opening day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority under the leadership of Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California as speaker of the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., second from left, and her mother Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, left, react as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., walks over to them for a photo during a ceremonial swearing-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
From left, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-NH, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., turn to the gallery to pose for photographs at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, a freshman Democrat representing New York's 14th Congressional District, takes a selfie with Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H, and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority under the leadership of Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California as speaker of the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., laughs with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, right, on the opening day of the 116th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, second from left, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., left, stand together on the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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