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Inslee signing HEAL Act to ensure environmental justice in WA

Environmental justice will be center stage Monday morning in Seattle’s Duwamish River Valley. That's where Gov. Jay Inslee is signing the so-called “HEAL Act.”

The acronym promises Healthy Environment for All. It comes in the wake of the creation of a statewide environmental disparities map that shows disproportionate pollution levels – hardest hit are low-income areas where people of color tend to live.

The HEAL Act directs seven key state agencies to infuse environmental justice into everything they do and to carry out regular assessments. It’s based on recommendations from an environmental justice task force convened in 2019 by the governor.

The legislation was developed with a statewide coalition of environmental justice groups called Front and Centered. They say they will continue to work on improving and expanding the new law.

Inslee will be hosted by members of the Duwamish Tribe for the signing ceremony. The tribe’s Longhouse and Cultural Center sits on land that was declared a Superfund site in 2001 because of industrial pollution.

James Rasmussen is the Superfund site manager and a member of the tribe. He says it’s meaningful to host the signing in this location.

“Because the issues we're talking about started so many years ago – and our voice might now be heard, not just in the city and the county but also in the state,” he said. “We are one of the last states in the United States that have actually dealt with this.”

The Duwamish River Valley has some of the highest rates of asthma and heart disease – and lowest life expectancies – in Seattle.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to