By David Wojick |August 25th, 2020
Kamala Harris did not mention climate change in her acceptance speech, but she did not have to. She talked a lot about justice and justice is now code for climate. Thanks to Harris and AOC, the strange beast of “climate justice” is now a big part of the Democrat’s agenda.
In fact the team of Harris and AOC has now codified the concept of climate justice. Just before the convention they jointly dropped the Climate Equity Act into the Senate and House hoppers.
The Equity Act does not mean that everyone gets their fair share of climate. The stated goal is for the Federal Government to adjust its investments and regulations to favor those who are supposedly most involved with climate change, or something like that.
The proposed law is so incoherent that it is hard to tell what it is for or what it does. That it would cause an enormous amount of confusion is certain.
The problem is that the central concept in the law is extremely unclear. Harris and AOC have continued the “war on climate” theme that AOC used when proposing the Green New Deal. Thus the Climate Equity Act is about something called “frontline communities.”
Apparently these so-called communities are on the frontline of climate change, or the frontline of stopping climate change, or some such. It is very hard to tell.
Here is how the Kamala Harris press release puts it:
“COVID-19 has laid bare the realities of systemic racial, health, economic, and environmental injustices that persist in our country,” said Sen. Harris. “The environment we live in cannot be disentangled from the rest of our lives, and it is more important than ever that we work toward a more just and equitable future. That is why, as we combat the climate crisis and build a clean economy; we must put justice and equity first. I’m proud to partner with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez on this comprehensive proposal to empower communities that have been neglected by policymakers for far too long.
The Climate Equity Act creates an administrative structure within the federal government to ensure that as we boldly address the climate crisis, our policies are founded in equity and justice for frontline communities. By ensuring that frontline community leaders and allies are playing a fundamental role in shaping and guiding federal policy, the Climate Equity Act helps hold the government accountable for creating a more just and equitable future as we tackle the climate crisis and build a clean economy.
‘Frontline communities’ are those that have experienced systemic socioeconomic disparities, environmental racism, and other forms of injustice, including low-income communities, indigenous peoples, and communities of color. As the climate crisis continues, these communities and others, including deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, vulnerable elderly populations, unhoused populations, and people with disabilities and the women, youth, and future generations belonging to these communities — will be impacted first and hardest by the climate crisis.
The Climate Equity Act holds the government accountable to frontline communities when it considers a policy, regulation, or investment with a climate or environmental nexus which could broadly include direct policies to address the environment and climate change, but also transportation, housing, infrastructure, jobs, workforce development, and more.”
So everything depends on what a frontline community is. It is here that the confusion begins. This central concept, upon which everything turns, is deliberately not defined. That definition is something to be done after the law is passed, by an Advisory Board no less. I am not making this up.
There is however, this wildly over the top guidance in the draft law:
“SEC. 205. DEFINITION OF FRONTLINE COMMUNITY.
(a) IN GENERAL. The Board of Advisors shall establish a definition of ‘‘frontline community’’ for purposes of this Act.
(b) INCLUSIONS. The definition under subsection (a) shall include, at a minimum
(1) a community or population that has experienced systemic socioeconomic disparities, environmental injustice, or another form of injustice, including
(A) a low-income community;
(B) an indigenous community; and (C) a community of color;
(2) a community or population that is the most vulnerable and will be the most adversely impacted by environmental and climate injustice and inequitable climate actions, including
(A) a community or population described in paragraph (1);
(B) a deindustrialized community; (C) a depopulated rural community; (D) a vulnerable elderly population; (E) an unhoused population;
(F) individuals with disabilities; and
(G) a community that is economically dependent on fossil fuel industries; and
(3) the women, the youth, and all of the descendants of women or youth that are part of a community or population described in paragraph (1) or (2) above.”
Note that section (2)(F) says that individuals with disabilities are by themselves frontline communities. One person communities? And the Advisory Board cannot change this inclusion. In fact all they can do is expand the definition to include more people.
I have no idea what section (3) means. It sounds as though if you are a descendent of a woman (but not a man?) in a frontline community you are still in it, or something. Or maybe only the women and youths in a frontline community are actually in it, not the older men? This section is truly incoherent.
Note too that in addition to communities there are also populations. What the difference is I have no idea. Perhaps communities have to be geographically together while populations do not, such as all the elderly people in New Mexico.
There is no way to tell from this incredibly vague and incoherent definition where the frontline communities are or who is in them.
The law requires that every proposed federal regulation, policy and investment (all grants, loans, etc.) that affects any frontline community must be analyzed for its impact. The negative impact must be minimized and the positive impact maximized. In the case of investments the agency is required to favor frontline communities to the extent allowed by law. Whether this includes federal contracts is unclear.
Given that there is no way to tell what a frontline community is, the result can only be chaos. Agencies cannot analyze what they cannot identify. If they try, in big money cases the attempt is certain to wind up in Federal Court, which the proposed law specifically allows for.
This law is modeled after the infamous National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental impact analysis of all federal, federally financed, or approved, projects. But in this case it is the economic impact on something undefined that must be analyzed and optimized.
This is the worst proposed law I have ever see. It is both wildly overreaching and deeply incoherent. But then the concept of climate justice is itself incoherent.
That Kamala Harris and AOC have teamed up to produce this complete nonsense is an ominous sign of things to come if the Democrats prevail in November.
David Wojick, Ph.D. is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy.
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