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Congressional Panels Called Out on Lack of Diversity in Hearings

June 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Congressional committees have had an Achilles heel when it comes to ensuring racial and ethnic diversity of witnesses at hearings and need to fix it now, an environmental group said in a letter Wednesday.

“Hearings are an integral element of the policy making process, and the inclusion of witnesses of color is key to ensuring that people across our nation have their voices heard,” wrote Andres Jimenez, executive director for Green 2.0, which pushes for increased diversity among environmental organizations.

The need for diversity is particularly crucial as committees focus on pollution, water, energy, infrastructure, conservation, and other environmental policies, Jimenez said.

The letter was sent to dozens of House and Senate panels, ranging from the House and Senate Appropriations committees to transportation, infrastructure, and energy committees.

‘Many Experts of Color’

President Joe Biden and Democrats now controlling both chambers of Congress have pushed to elevate racial equity and environmental justice on multiple fronts. But Green 2.0 said committees continue to hear from panels that are mostly White, or sometimes lack a single person of color, on issues such as climate change and environmental justice that disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities.

“There are many experts of color already leading in the environmental movement,” Jimenez wrote in the letter. His group “has wide access” to a diverse array of experts and can help connect such witnesses to committee staff, he wrote.

Green 2.0 cited some signs of improvement, including a move by the House Rules Committee earlier this year to set up a system to track the track the diversity of witnesses. But more still needs to be done, he said.

“In 2021, there should never be a committee hearing in Congress on any environmental or climate-related issue that doesn’t include a person of color as a witness to testify,” Jimenez said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com