04/26/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why I'm A Democrat

This week, the New York State Senate passed my environmental justice bill. That's the good news.

This legislation is very simple: it declares a policy of equal treatment of people of all races, cultures, religions, incomes, education levels and sexual orientation in the development and enforcement of environmental laws in New York State.

Who would object to a broad statement that commits our state to a policy of anti-discrimination? Half the Republicans in the Senate. And some of them refuse to acknowledge that environmental injustice even exists.

Study after study has shown that minority and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by exposure to pollution from environmental hazards. These communities are often saddled with an unfair share of incinerators, dumps, factories and other sources of pollution.

The facts are clear: three out of five African-Americans or Latinos live in communities with one or more toxic waste sites. 57% of Whites, 65% of African-Americans and 80% of Latinos live in counties that fail to meet federal air quality standards. (Yes, you read that correctly - eighty percent).

We have a moral obligation to do better.

Environmental justice means that every New Yorker has the right to clean air, safe drinking water and healthy communities to raise their children. It means that people with lower incomes or from communities of color will be treated equally under the state's environmental protection laws.

And it sends a clear message that New York will not tolerate a 'separate, but equal' policy when it comes to safeguarding our communities from environmental hazards.

We won this battle, but there will be plenty of fights ahead. I hope you'll join and support me to fight for the fundamental, progressive values we believe in: justice, fairness and equality.