Philly opens application process for environmental justice commission

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Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration opened the application process Monday to create the first Environmental Justice Advisory Commission.

In 2019, City Council passed legislation creating an Environmental Justice Commission to provide recommendations to the mayor, council and the Office of Sustainability to study, report on and address environmental justice issues in Philadelphia. The city is now recruiting 10-15 residents, especially those most impacted by environmental injustice, to join the first cohort of this newly formed commission.

“Environmental harms still threaten far too many communities, and particularly communities of color in Philadelphia,” Kenney said in a statement. “That’s why I’m pleased the city is creating the Environmental Justice Advisory Commission to ensure residents with lived experience and personal interest in Philadelphia’s environmental issues, are at the decision-making table. We hope this commission will support the leadership of frontline communities who are building a more just and thriving Philadelphia.”

For over a decade, the city’s Greenworks sustainability plan has set ambitious goals for supporting all residents in benefitting from a healthy and equitable environment including clean air, land and water, healthy and fresh foods, and neighborhoods resilient to flooding and extreme heat. However, too many residents are still exposed to environmental harm because of Philadelphia’s industrial past and present combined with racial-biased and discriminatory policies and practices such as exclusionary zoning, racial covenants, and redlining. As a result, low-wealth communities and communities of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods experiencing multiple environmental burdens and disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The consequences of this harm have been these communities often facing unequal health burdens observed through indicators such as rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.

“Philadelphia is not immune from the devastating reality that lower-wealth communities and communities of color confront heightened risk in the face of the accelerating climate crisis – the roots of which stem from a legacy of environmental injustice. Rectifying the ongoing effects of this legacy is the starting point for placing communities on a path towards a more resilient, equitable future,” said Saleem Chapman, the city’s chief resilience officer.

“The Environmental Justice Advisory Commission demonstrates a recognition of the fact that the onus is on governments to do all that can be done to activate and center the leadership of those most impacted,” he continued.

The Kenney administration invites residents, especially those from impacted communities, to join this commission to provide recommendations to the mayor, city council and city agencies on eliminating the disproportionate burden of pollutants and environmental harms that undermine health and wellbeing across Philadelphia. Members of the commission will be compensated $240 per year for their participation.

“We cannot address environmental injustice without centering the voices of those who have experienced it,” said Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson, chair of council’s Committee on the Environment. “I am asking all Philadelphians who have lived with the impacts of toxic pollution, degrading infrastructure, extreme heat, short dumping, and all the many other forms of environmental injustice in our neighborhoods to leverage this opportunity. Join us in helping create a just and thriving city by applying for this paid position on the Environmental Justice Advisory Commission.”

Residents interested in applying should apply through the online application by Dec. 22 at midnight. The form is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Simplified Chinese. Email [email protected] with any questions.

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