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The new law meant to fix environmental injustices is far from equitable, critics say


The Inflation Reduction Act includes billions of dollars to address climate change in low-income neighborhoods. But many environmental groups that advocate for Black, Indigenous and other marginalized people did not support this bill. NPR's Rebecca Hersher explains why.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: The new law will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is good for humanity as a whole. But in order to get conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to support it, the law also includes a lot of money for oil and gas companies. And that is very concerning for people who live near refineries and pipelines and plastics factories and who suffer disproportionate pollution and danger because of it - people who are mostly not rich and not white. Juan Zhang Cheng is the climate director at the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, which opposed the bill.

JUAN JHONG CHUNG: We are sitting right now with a lot of contradictions.

HERSHER: He says it's good that the law provides money specifically for disadvantaged communities, but...

CHUNG: A lot of those projects are going to harm our community. So for us, it feels like what the bill is giving with one hand, it's taking with the other.

HERSHER: The White House disputes the idea that the law will harm marginalized communities. Ali Zaidi is the deputy national climate adviser to President Biden.

ALI ZAIDI: Part of this is also direct investment in helping clean up communities that have been left out and left behind.

HERSHER: The White House estimates that the law includes over $60 billion in spending on so-called environmental justice - to reduce truck emissions around U.S. ports, for example, plant trees in the hottest city neighborhoods, install solar panels in low-income communities.

ZAIDI: You know, this bill is the product of compromise. Without compromise, there would be no bill.

HERSHER: Jhong Chung says that rings hollow for those who feel like they're on the losing end of the political compromise.

CHUNG: For us, it feels really - it doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel good to hear that, you know, this is the best we can get.

HERSHER: He says he feels like his community and others are being sacrificed for the greater good - again.

Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.