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Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member for the House Natural Resources Committee, recently sat down with the Sierra Club to talk about environmental issues related to Latinos.

During the discussion, Grijalva said there are “historic” and “institutionalized” disparities regarding what communities heavy industrial or other polluting facilities are placed near. Latinos and blacks are subject to more environmental burdens than the general population, he said.

And then the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair said this:

“[I]t has been a slow response, and for many years, if I may say so, even though it has changed a lot for the last five or six years, for mainstream advocates for the environment this [environmental justice] has not been a priority issue. And I say that with all due respect and the acknowledgement that they have made a change. The conservation agenda was a top-burner issue, the preservation of habitat, species, etc. … What we are trying to do in the House Committee on Natural Resources, on which I serve, is to connect the two--the environmental justice agenda and preserving the conservation laws that have served us well.”

He’s pointing to a distinction between being an environmentalist and an environmental justice advocate. Notably, Grijalva is talking about building that bridge through his own role on Capitol Hill.

There’s room for others to do the same, Grijalva said. For example, he advised big green groups to take on more diverse issues and partners and to diversify their own staff, and he said the National Park Service should similarly diversify its staff.

The full interview is available at the Huffington Post.