One of Mr. Biden’s key campaign pledges was a promise to address environmental justice, highlighting the need to protect poor and minority communities that are exposed to more pollution than rich communities. I suspect he’ll be pressed by locals to make Chester one of his target communities. 

As Biden has been appointing cabinet and department heads, his top candidate to lead the nation’s most powerful environmental agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, appeared clear: Mary D. Nichols. 

To his surprise, a group of more than 70 environmental justice groups wrote to the Biden transition charging that Ms. Nichols has a “bleak track record in addressing environmental racism.”

Quoted in the New York Times, Chester’s Tina Johnson, director of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN), says, “Equity and justice were on the ballot. Being transformative means being willing to walk the walk. I’m happy to hear those concerns, from the environmental justice perspective, have been heard,” Ms. Johnson said.

The NBEJN advocates for equality through goals of combating environmental racism, expanding their research agenda, and eliminating discriminatory policies at odds with environmental justice. Johnson described her vision of future communities “free from the vestiges of systemic racism and environmental degradation.”

“America is segregated, and pollution is also segregated,” Johnson said. “The findings are clear.” She rattled off some startling numbers about the “politics of pollution”:

  • Black Americans in 19 states are 79% more likely than their white peers to live near dangerous industrial pollution.
  • Historically redlined Black neighborhoods experience temperatures an average of 5 degrees higher than non-redlined areas.
  • Black families with incomes of $50-60k live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than where white families with incomes of below $10k live.

Covid-19 has further exposed this racial divide in the United States and shined a national spotlight on healthcare shortfalls and socioeconomic disparities. Johnson explained that these inequities have exacerbated the effects of Covid-19 on Black communities, pointing out how the spread of the virus “closely maps with race, class, place, and environmental disparities.”