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By Jamie Leonard, Research and Program Analyst

The White House’s Justice40 initiative, announced this summer, promotes environmental justice by directing 40 percent of federal funding in clean energy toward what it has identified as disadvantaged communities. These communities were selected using a wide range of metrics related to the burdens of pollution, such as population living with asthma, proximity to superfund sites, and air quality. Through our sponsorship by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Clean Cities program has been selected as a pilot program for this initiative.

Michigan Clean Cities, the state’s designated Clean Cities coalition, works to achieve environmental justice through our educational and technical assistance. As a local group, we connect with people in these disadvantaged communities to identify where federal funding can provide clean transportation in their area. To further understand where these investments are most effective, we have been participating in a nationwide justice workshop hosted by Argonne National Laboratory.

Argonne’s Clean Cities energy and environmental justice workshop series has brought together Clean Cities coalitions from across the country to discuss the history of environmental racism and how Clean Cities can address its effects through the Justice40 initiative. At the workshop, we’ve compared how environmental racism has affected city planning and clean transportation efforts nationwide, and what mistakes we can learn from. For instance, we learned about the consequences of rerouting diesel truck traffic in Oakland, California.

Activists had trucks banned from their local highway in 1951, which has reduced noise and diesel emissions in their neighborhood. However, this traffic was rerouted to a nearby highway in East Oakland, concentrating the diesel emissions in the area. This historically Black neighborhood, to this day, suffers worse air quality as a result of the ban.

As we work toward a cleaner, more sustainable future, we must promote equity in our work to ensure this future for all. Michigan Clean Cities is excited to be a part of this initiative that will inform our clean transportation efforts.

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