Today, one in five Americans lives within just three miles of a Superfund toxic waste site. Contaminants of concern at these sites include arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, dioxin, and other hazardous chemicals that may increase the risk of cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, and other serious illnesses. Cleanup can take a decade or more, and decreased funding over the last 20 years has led to slower cleanups. To make matters worse, climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of storms such as hurricanes that threaten to impact toxic waste sites, which could spread the chemicals at these sites into surrounding communities. During the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, 810 Superfund toxic waste sites were in the path of a hurricane or tropical storm.
The United States currently relies heavily on fossil fuels to heat our homes, fuel our cars, power our machines and produce electricity, harming our health and our climate. America’s abundant renewable energy resources, coupled with energy efficiency measures and technological advances that have made renewable energy cheaper and better than ever, open the possibility of transitioning our entire economy to run on 100 percent renewable energy.
After years of setbacks on the environment, in the Biden administration’s early days, it is critical that we take swift action to clean up our environment and address the climate crisis. There are several important environmental policies that can be set in motion on day one that will protect our natural landscapes and give Americans cleaner air, cleaner water and a more livable climate. This report lists the First Thigns to Fix.
The 2020 election suggested that Americans are more divided than at any time in recent history. But in reality, there are a surprising number of public policies on which Republicans, Democrats and independents share common ground. By daring to venture out across political “no man’s land” and forge compromise on areas of public concern, lawmakers can get important work done for the American people even as they begin to create a pathway out of the nation’s dangerous and counterproductive polarization.
Environment New York Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.