Boston – Environmental justice was dealt a devastating blow today by Governor Baker’s veto of the much-anticipated Next Generation Roadmap Bill. Enactment of S.2995 would have created long overdue protections for the Black, Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant and low income communities who experience disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change and are often excluded from adequate participation in environmental decision-making.

Members of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Table, a broad based coalition of environmental justice organizations, grassroots groups, and allies, led by GreenRoots, Inc. and Neighbor to Neighbor MA, are shocked and disappointed to see this opportunity squandered. Not only would the bill have helped to reassert Massachusetts’ leadership on climate change, it would have anchored state decarbonization efforts in racial and economic justice, in the wake of the nation’s racial reckoning and in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the imperative to do so is no longer in question.

We thank our legislative sponsors, who have been leaders in bringing the issue of environmental justice to the forefront, and for their hard work over the past two years and more. We also thank the Senate President and Speaker of the House, who have come out publicly and committed to refiling the Next Generation Roadmap Bill as soon as possible.

Maria Belén Power, Associate Executive Director, GreenRoots Inc, said, “Once again, so-called “progressive” Massachusetts has shown it’s true colors. We are led by a Republican Governor who is not interested in defending and protecting the most vulnerable residents of our Commonwealth, in particular immigrants, people of color and low income residents. Governor Baker has sent a clear message for 2021, he has zero interest in advancing equity and providing much-needed protections for environmental justice communities. It is shameful that after everything our country and our Commonwealth has been through this past year; after so many public health inequities being uncovered and exposed; and after the racial uprisings of this past summer, Governor Baker refuses to grant justice to the most vulnerable communities of our Commonwealth. ”

Andrea Nyamekye, Co-Executive Director, Neighbor to Neighbor MA, said, “After 20 long years, we still do not have true environmental justice protections for our most vulnerable communities in the Commonwealth. This bill could have been the first step in ameliorating public health and environmental harms that have plagued Massachusetts communities, and disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant, and low income communities, for far too long. Governor Baker had a chance to put environmental justice into state statute for the first time, but he decided to allow environmental racism to persist in Massachusetts despite the overwhelming statewide support for these protections. We are thankful to our coalition partners for the work that was poured into getting environmental justice legislation this far, and to our five legislative sponsors who pushed their legislative colleagues to act on justice. The Governor may think he has silenced us and our fight for justice, but we will be back because our communities can no longer wait.”

Sofia Owen, Staff Attorney, ACE (Alternatives for Community & Environment): “We are deeply disappointed that the Governor did not sign the Roadmap Bill. The environmental justice provisions would provide Black, Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant, and low-income communities in Massachusetts with baseline protections that are long overdue. Our communities are the most polluted in the state, and by not signing this bill, Governor Baker is failing to protect the health of the communities who need it most – even in the midst of a global pandemic. This is unacceptable. Today’s veto ensures that environmental racism will continue to thrive in policymaking in Massachusetts.”

Jean-Luc Pierite, President Board of Directors, North American Indian Center of Boston: “There is no environmental justice without first considering the Indigenous peoples of Massachusetts. The Next Generation Roadmap Bill includes critical measures for equity for our communities on the front line of climate change. It ensures that Indigenous peoples are not excluded from decision making processes because of race or language barriers. It also ensures further investment in businesses rooted in our communities. This means the most impacted are those who can foster solutions for a sustainable future. Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto stands against a loud outcry for equity from environmental justice communities.”

Heather McMann, Executive Director, Groundwork Lawrence: ““I am very disappointed that Governor Baker did not sign the Next Generation Roadmap Bill,” said Heather McMann, executive director of Groundwork Lawrence. “I know that Groundwork Lawrence and the rest of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Table will continue to work together and step up our efforts to make our voice heard and advocate for climate policy that directly addresses both the causes of climate warming and actively develops process to address the pervasive social inequity that has our environmental justice population bear the brunt of the burden of climate change. It is critical, to protect our planet and to protect its people, that aggressive measures such as the ones included in this Bill, become law of the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts Environmental Justice Table is led by GreenRoots, Inc. and Neighbor to Neighbor MA and includes Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), A Better Future Project, Coalition for Social Justice, Clean Water Action, Community Action Works, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Groundwork Lawrence, Health Care Without Harm, Lawyers for Civil Rights, Massachusetts Climate Action Network, the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), and Unitarian Universalist Mass Action.