Jammin' for Justice awardee spotlight: Massachusetts Environmental Justice Alliance (MA EJ Alliance)

May 20, 2015

We would like to highlight our EJ Award recipients who worked hard to secure our state's Executive Order on Environmental Justice!

Photo by Marilyn HumphriesThe Massachusetts Environmental Justice Alliance (MA EJ Alliance) accomplished a major goal in 2014 when Massachusetts became one of just eight states to issue an Executive Order on Environmental Justice (EJ EO). Convened by ACE in 2009, the alliance is comprised of more than 20 grassroots groups and supported by health professionals and academic researchers who came together to push for an EJ policy agenda. MA EJ Alliance members identified the Executive Order as a priority.

After five years of campaigning, including meeting with officials and government agencies, collecting signed postcards calling for the EJ EO, and language negotiations, the MA EJ Alliance convinced Governor Deval Patrick to sign the EJ EO to ensure that state agencies take EJ communities' interests into account.

"Having a state environmental justice order in place makes a difference to a community like Salem in giving citizens more leverage to demand a cleaner environment," said Pat Gozemba, Co-Chair of Salem Alliance for the Environment (SAFE). "SAFE was proud to partner with ACE in getting Governor Patrick to sign the historic order."
The order is unique in that it requires substantive outcomes benefiting EJ communities, in addition to removing barriers to participation in environmental decision-making. All state executive agencies are now required to develop strategies to address environmental justice, designate an EJ Coordinator, and facilitate public participation in state decisions by publishing materials in multiple languages and holding public meetings at convenient times and locations for residents.

Photo by Marilyn Humphries "The Executive Order will give us a fighting chance to stop things from coming into our community that will hurt us-and even help us develop projects that will be good for the community," said Michaelann Bewsee of Arise for Social Justice.

ACE is proud of all the organizations and individuals that joined together as the MA EJ Alliance and contributed to the EJ EO victory. We're honoring the following grassroots groups and people for their exceptional leadership on the EJ EO campaign: Westfield Concerned Citizens (WCC), Arise for Social Justice, Salem Alliance for the Environment, and ACE Member Sue Harden.

"I feel privileged to have worked for the past few years with such an amazing statewide coalition of environmental justice advocates and members of the Governor's cabinet to create this ordinance," said Sue Harden.

We are also recognizing state allies for their work in supporting the EJ EO campaign: Maeve Vallely Bartlett, former Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs; Gary Davis, former General Counsel in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; and Marty Suuberg, Commissioner at the Department of Environmental Protection.

Gary, Maeve, and Marty played a significant role in negotiating the language of the order, generating support from other state agencies and participating in meetings with the MA EJ Alliance. This team effort and victory will contribute to improved quality of life for all people of the Commonwealth.