“If you care about low-income, minority communities, start protecting the air that they breathe.” President Obama’s remarks about his newly finalized Clean Power Plan (CPP) resonated with me as I sat in the East Room of the White House last week.

In many low-income communities and communities of color, breathing is hazardous to your health because of high levels of air pollution — a legacy of the environmental racism that exists in our country. That simple idea expressed by the president has been the driving force behind the work of environmental justice (EJ) advocates for decades. So the moment those words crossed his lips, the East Room erupted — people stood up and cheered for a long time. I let out a sigh of relief and was filled with pride that the voices of environmental justice communities had been heard all the way up to the White House.

I don’t believe that the final Clean Power Plan is perfect, but it’s much improved over the draft plan that was released in June of 2014. There was a dramatic shift in the tone and content, and explicit pieces of the plan now address environmental justice and the concerns of communities on the frontlines of pollution. This shift would not have happened if not for the persistent voices of environmental justice advocates working tirelessly over the past year, in organizations that are understaffed and underfunded.