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Environmental Justice

Sheila Jackson Lee believes the climate crisis is among the most significant challenges facing our city and the nation. She believes that collectively, as a city, we must rethink how we address the environmental challenge by focusing on rebuilding Houston's infrastructure in a manner that places the environment at the forefront.


Extreme temperatures affect our health, food supply, and electric grid, and floods jeopardize our property. The increasing intensity and frequency of tropical storms and hurricanes along the Texas Gulf Coast threaten to upend our businesses and communities while disproportionally impacting disadvantaged neighborhoods and causing long-lasting social and financial hardships in these communities. Adapting to the changing climate is the only way we can protect the health and livelihood of all Houstonians. 


Sheila Jackson Lee understands that the catastrophic effects of climate change require us to transform our economy and address decades of environmental neglect that has left communities overburdened by pollution and underinvestment. As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will lead in the way she always has by placing the interests of all Houstonians, especially disadvantaged communities and working people, at the center of policies and programs.


Houston is the world's energy capital, and under the leadership of the Sheila Jackson Lee administration, Houston will become a frontrunner in addressing climate change and serving as a model for cities worldwide. Jackson Lee will work tirelessly in good faith with the more than 4,700 energy-related companies in Greater Houston to advance a clean energy economy, expand access to clean transportation and open spaces, enhance biodiversity and climate resiliency, conserve our natural resources, and train our workforce for green jobs.


Jackson Lee was on the frontline, helping lead the way in passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, enacted on November 21, 2021, in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which authorized $108 billion for public transportation and infrastructure. The new legislation ratified the nation's most significant federal investment in clean drinking water, wastewater infrastructure, and public transit. As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will seek and judiciously leverage these federal funds to help Houston upgrade flood and wastewater systems.


All people have the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment where they live, work, and play. While all Houstonians experience the adverse health impacts of toxic air, polluted water, and contaminated soil, these harms are disproportionally experienced by low-income Hispanic, Black, Asian, and immigrant neighborhoods. Conversely, environmental benefits – such as open space, parks, and tree canopy – are far less accessible to these same disadvantaged communities. 


That is why Sheila Jackson Lee will work toward a jobs and sustainability-centered plan with our traditional energy partners to decarbonize our economy. Climate justice means providing working people and disadvantaged communities with the resources they need to adequately prepare for our changing environment.


As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will promote a collaborative approach that places community feedback and participation at the center of tackling disproportionate rates of pollution and environmental disparities in our most vulnerable communities. Sheila knows we can address the climate crisis and advance sustainability by working collaboratively with businesses, government, and the public to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy, create economic opportunity, and enhance community resilience.


The Jackson Lee plan for an environmentally friendlier and healthier Houston includes eight interconnected pillars: 


1. Reduce the City's Contribution to the Climate Problem:

Tailpipe emissions from cars and heavy-duty vehicles contribute to poor air quality. Sheila Jackson Lee will work to assess and support the reduction of harmful emissions from fossil-based fuels used to power our transportation systems while simultaneously focusing on adopting cleaner alternatives. Jackson Lee will:

  • Expand the network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout Houston, both in households and corridors – where Houstonians live, work, and play – specifically in communities with limited access.

  • Partner with educational institutions, including Houston Community College, to expand job training programs that focus on installing and maintaining EV charging stations, especially in underserved communities. This will help ensure that small and minority-owned businesses can participate in the rapid growth of the charging network.

  • Spur collaboration among the federal government, community organizations, relevant city agencies, and the private sector to help low-income drivers retrofit their existing vehicles to reduce emissions where physically and economically viable or purchase EVs.

  • Transition city-owned fleets over time to run on cleaner fuel sources.

  • Work with METRO and the school districts within the city's boundaries to expedite the transition to clean bus fleets.


2. Transform Our Streets and Expand Walking and Biking throughout the City:

Houston's transportation infrastructure was initially designed to accommodate single-passenger vehicles and the movement of goods. Sheila Jackson Lee will champion mobility options to make walking and biking paths accessible across Houston. As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will:

  • Transform our city streets into public spaces where livability and wellness are priorities and where the city's major corridors are walkable, bikeable, green, and safe.

  • Connect where Houstonians live and work, including expanding Houston's protected bike-lane network.

  • Invest in technology to create safer streets and reduce traffic fatalities. 


3. Assist Homeowners and Landlords in Reducing Emissions:

Buildings in Houston account for a substantial share of greenhouse gas emissions, and the city has a Climate Action Plan (CAP) and a decarbonization policy for all city-owned and operated buildings. However, the more significant challenge concerns the millions of non-city-owned and operated existing facilities. After meeting with tenants, building owners, and community leaders to hear their unique concerns, a Sheila Jackson Lee administration will: 

  • Work with the Texas Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to accelerate weatherizing retrofits and the transition to electric appliances for eligible applicants.

  • Look to public-private partnerships to incentivize low-income homeowners to purchase energy-efficient appliances and HVAC systems using rebates and discounts. 

  • Incentivize rental home and apartment building owners to adopt more energy and water-efficient property management practices. 


4. Clean Up Our Port to Benefit Communities: 

The Port of Houston is the fifth busiest container port in North America and a globally significant freight hub that facilitates the movement of goods throughout the entire country. It is also a considerable source of air pollution in Houston, negatively impacting neighboring communities and exacerbating the climate crisis. 


Residents and frontline workers co-exist within the multitude of trucks, trains, and ships that traverse communities, resulting in localized pollution that threatens the health and safety of workers and many disadvantaged communities. 


Addressing these impacts ensures that the benefits of the Port avoid burdening surrounding neighborhoods, workers, and our environment. As Mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will:


  • Strive to reduce emissions for all Port operations and achieve targets for 2030 and beyond. 

  • Partner with all levels of government, including the Port, the Bureau of Air Quality Control (BAQC), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and other local and federal agencies, to meet public health and climate goals and strengthen emissions regulations that ensure Port and freight infrastructure investments do not exacerbate negative health impacts. 

  • Develop and implement renewable energy policies for use at all Port operations, including strengthening partnerships between the Port and City Hall to ensure the Port is both an incubator and an adopter of innovative technologies.

  • Support healthy land use and permitting policies that prevent or mitigate adverse impacts, including guidelines for facility siting and standards that promote the use of new and emerging zero-emission technologies.

  • Support investment of port revenues in community benefits for impacted neighborhoods, including public health and mobile clinics, parks, open space, and community gardens, climate resiliency and adaptation projects, technology development and deployment, education enhancements, and projects that address noise pollution.


5. Clean Up Our Airports to Benefit Communities:

Airplane emissions represent a dangerous hazard to workers and neighbors, and prevailing winds carry the pollution generated at Houston area airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), into adjoining Houston neighborhoods. 


Moreover, noise generated by airports is not just a nuisance but a public health issue. As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will fight to draw attention to airplane noise's negative impacts and harmful economic and health effects and raise the matter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).


Houston has made progress in reducing its carbon footprint and airplane noise through capital investment, modernization, and noise abatement programs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will advocate on behalf of Houston and partner with the FAA and local community groups to continue the progress and improve the health of our communities impacted by airports and flight paths.


6. Appoint an Environmental Advisor to Get the Job Done:

As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will appoint an environmental advisor to represent the city on the boards, committees, and commissions governing the Port of Houston, the Houston Airport System, and other agencies with substantial authority over air quality, water, and greenhouse gas emissions.


The appointed advisor will report directly to the mayor and be empowered to work with all stakeholders on prioritizing public health and climate change. The advisor will also collaborate with community, environmental, business, and labor partners to champion these issues and get the job done.


7. Make Our Communities More Resilient:

Heat waves routinely send hundreds of Houstonians to the hospital, while the city's few cooling centers sit virtually empty. As mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will provide an alternative: resilience hubs. Houstonians already visit their libraries, community clinics, and local service centers. Sheila Jackson Lee will transform these community assets into centers that can help during heat waves, cold freezes, and floods. These hubs will provide a place for people to meet, recharge their cell phones, grab a cup of water, stay out of the elements, and operate off the grid when power lines are down.


8. Give Impacted Communities a Seat at the Table:

As Mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will do what she has always done; she will reach out directly to those impacted by energy, climate, and environmental policies and give them a seat at the table where decisions are made. Jackson Lee understands that many affected, especially disadvantaged, communities have suffered ecological harm. 


Under her administration, Jackson Lee will increase community engagement with historically overlooked Houstonians and expand the use of participatory governance and science-based policies that embrace indigenous and community knowledge about environmental impacts on human health and our ecosystems. Sheila Jackson Lee will strengthen the role and presence of the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Sustainability (MORS) to increase community engagement with historically overlooked Houstonians and expand the use of participatory governance and science-based policy.


Finally, as mayor, Sheila Jackson Lee will address the placement and harmful effects of cement batch plants (CBP) and other industrial sites (OIS) head-on. Under her administration, she will make part of her agenda a requirement that the site location and plans for any new CBP or OIS receive approval from a majority of the impacted community. The constituents will be heard and respected, and fairness will abound.

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