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Bush Wants To Map Out Where Biden Should Direct Environmental Money

Cori Bush, the Democratic nominee for Missouri's 1st District, stands near the Gateway Arch on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. Bush won a landmark victory Tuesday against Congressman Lacy Clay.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
Congresswoman Cori Bush is proposing legislation that would create an interactive map that could be used to direct money and attention toward solving environmental issues.

Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey are teaming up on legislation that would require the federal government to map out environmental issues.

Both Democratic lawmakers said this tool would help President Joe Biden follow through on a pledge to direct money to low-income and minority communities to fix key environmental problems.

Earlier this week, Biden pledged that he would direct 40% of environmental-related funds to communities with high numbers of low-income and minority residents. Biden said some of these funds could help pay for clean energy, water and wastewater projects.

During a press conference Thursday, Markey and Bush announced legislation that would pull together federal agencies to plot specific environmental issues, like air and water quality, on a map so that Biden’s administration knows where to direct those funds. Markey said it would identify criteria and create places to store data.

“That tool is going to be essential to direct at least 40% of the funding for a clean and climate safe future into communities facing environmental injustices,” Markey said. “So that’s our goal and it’s completely consistent with what President Biden has laid out as his agenda.”

Bush noted that the maps could also pinpoint neighborhoods where police killings and gun violence occur. She added that could give governmental agencies the data they need to match communities with specific programs.

“When we talk about gun violence and when we talk about community violence, we’re talking about where the disparities are to make sure that funding is there to fix decades of injustice that have opened the door to this,” Bush said. “It’s not just pointing a finger at the issue, but it’s about how we can fix the issue.”

One of the people at Bush and Markey’s press conference was Karisa Gilman-Hernandez of the Dutchtown South Neighborhood Community Corporation. Gilman-Hernandez said mapping out environmental issues could help groups like hers identify problems that officials can solve.

“So we’re really grateful to Senator Markey and Congresswoman Bush and everybody around the country that’s doing this great work to right the wrongs that we’ve seen from generations upon generations,” she said.

Bush said she expects this idea will find fans in the Democratically controlled House, especially since it dovetails with one of Biden’s key agenda items.

“This was something that needed to be in place to make sure that funding actually reached communities like St. Louis,” Bush said. “I truly believe that party leadership should be definitely amenable to this.”

But because the Senate is evenly divided, it could be difficult to get some of Biden’s environmental legislation through Congress without major changes to the filibuster in the Senate, which can stall legislation. Markey is a supporter of getting rid of the filibuster.

While Bush doesn’t have a say in what the Senate does on the filibuster, she added that “anything that’s going to tackle racism or injustice, we could be dealing with the filibuster on that.” But she said that the map could also be helpful in dealing with rural environmental concerns, which could include poverty and flooding.

“I believe that will help us push this through for us,” Bush said. “Because the thing is, it’s about the environment and about how one community affects the other community’s environment.”

In addition to Bush and Markey, Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth also signed onto the bill. She said in a statement that “we must continue to prioritize working to ensure every American has the right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land regardless of their ZIP code, the size of their wallet or the color of their skin.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.