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Becoming an Environmental Justice Advocate

2010 March 26

Back in 1999, I attended a forum called the National Conference for Public Interest Lawyers, which was basically a job fair for new lawyers. I knew I wanted to do environmental work, but I wasn’t quite sure exactly what that would look like or what was available. As I walked to the different tables, I landed in front of one that had several informational sheets, but one said ‘Environmental Justice.’ What is Environmental Justice? As I read through the sheet it explained that working for environmental justice meant working with and in low income communities and communities of color that were overburdened by environmental pollution. And, that the concentration of facilities and pollution had deleterious health impacts for the people living and working in these communities. That was it. I knew I wanted to work with this group -only one problem: they didn’t have any jobs! I could have moved on, but I knew that no other job would be as rewarding. So, I did the only thing I could, I offered to work as a volunteer.

Working with communities I witnessed the burdens they were living with and met many great hard working citizens who had a passion and love for their home. As a legal advisor I worked together with community groups to advance their visions and address disproportionate impacts. This was very rewarding and it strengthened my commitment and desire to work hand in hand with communities.

In January 2010 the Administrator announced her seven priorities, one being to: Expand the Conversation on Environmentalism and Work for Environmental Justice. Now, in my new position I have the opportunity to continue to work with communities in implementing the Administrator’s priority to ensure all communities are healthy places for people to live, learn, work, and play.

One way we have been working to bring the voices of the communities to the forefront is through our Faces of the Grassroots: Environmental Justice Video Contest. You can share your environmental justice stories by submitting either a 30 or 60 second public service message or a longer 3 to 5 minute informational video that captures your environmental justice story. Our contest closes April 8th. We want you to join the conversation!

For more info, visit

About the author: Lisa Garcia , Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Environmental Justice

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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21 Responses leave one →
  1. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 26, 2010

    Environmental Justice is a major concern across the country and no more so than in California. Studies by the Air Resourses Board show that many low income and minority areas are located close or next to major ports or railroad yards and have worse pollution from diesel exhaust than other areas. Major freeway interchanges seem to be located more in minority neighborhoods and the Air Resourses Control Board says living by or near a major freeway will increase your risk of serious health problems again because of the diesel particulates in the air over the freeway. The opponents to a multibillion dollar state water bond initiative we will vote on in November cite environmental justice issues as a major flaw in the initiative. They are showing that low income and minority areas have less and more polluted water than other communities and that the initiative does little to address that. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    March 27, 2010

    Sr. Lisa Garcia….., I hope you always pleasant to save these communities, because their environmental justice problems depend from the others. Your spirit could make them comfortable for lives. Greatest your contest…..!!!!!

  3. Al Bannet permalink
    March 27, 2010

    I am advocating environmental justice for planet Earth, and for that purpose I strongly recommend to the human race that it stop overpopulating and polluting, but instead restrain its instinct to grow, recycle 100 % of all its waste and garbage, allow women to decide how many children they can support and thus return to a natural balance with the planet that created them.

  4. Marlyn permalink
    March 28, 2010

    Keep up the good work. I guarantee you there is a great need for lawyers and other people to be inerested and active in improving this subject of enviromental justice and the conditions some people endure becaue they can’t afford to live in a different communities that offer a cleaner air etc…indeed it’s a very sensitive topic that we sure have to address and advocate for because no one else will.

  5. travesti permalink
    March 30, 2010

    What is Environmental Justice? As I read through the sheet it explained that working for environmental justice meant working with and in low income communities and communities of color that were overburdened by environmental pollution.

  6. Karl permalink
    April 24, 2010

    Environmental justice is socialism.

  7. Green Wave permalink
    April 24, 2010

    Buy a cheap house in the bad part of town and then wait for the Tulane crowd to get a lawyer to sue someone for you.

  8. lyounes permalink*
    May 10, 2010

    Thank you for your interest in environmental protection. Sorry we cannot post your comment because it is not directly related to the subject of the blog.

  9. Support for Technology permalink
    June 30, 2010

    They are showing that low income and minority areas have less and more polluted water than other communities and that the initiative does little to address that. Best wishes, Michael


  10. lawyerservices permalink
    November 3, 2010

    In becoming environmentalist, you must seek of the long term solutions when it comes to environmental problems. And always see to it that you must be aware on everybody’s concern about their places.

  11. lawyerservices permalink
    November 3, 2010

    So, they must be concern or target those areas who has polluted water. But the problem is, less money means less services.

  12. Depuy Hip Recall Lawyers permalink
    November 8, 2010

    Wow! This can be a single of the most effective blogs I’ve actually arrive throughout on this subject. Basically Magnificent.

  13. Depuy Hip Recall Lawyers permalink
    November 30, 2010

    This is really a useful article. I’ve been here reading for a while. Thanks.

  14. Depuy Hip Recall Lawyers permalink
    December 3, 2010

    Congratulations on your fabulous post. It sounds interesting. Thanks a lot. I have checked over a few of your other articles and found some great information too.

  15. Barbara Harris permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Ask Sun0co, Inc. where is the DEP sign off for Sunoco Home Heating Oil delivery driver Chris Middleton’s oil spill NRC report#54479 and PEMA report #200212504318 into the back yards of Chester Township homes which was left to migrate into their basements for 3 days prior to discovery 1/23/2001 and left under these homes forever.
    Why no action from EPA/PA DEP no records of reports, testing and removal of oil and contaminated soil left to migrate in the basements, no DEP sign off or fines. Sunoco’s agents admitted guilt in 2005, PA DEP saw reports & met the sick spill site resident who later died.
    Six years of continuances, Sanctions with a Gag Oder preventing presentation of evidence of guilt because the Plaintiff said no more bogus test. Sunoco, Inc. and Mulry & Creswell Environmental was granted a Summary Judgment and homes in a minority neighborhood was left with toxic soil under them which cause leukemia/cancer to make residents sick or cause them to die for decades to come.
    One of the two judges that granted continuances died in January of 2010, his obituary stated he served on the Sunoco/Chevron Golf league for over 25 years, a sad example of no justice.
    Chester Township officials angered by warnings written on the building across from their parking lot warning residents this is a toxic oil spill site, are demolishing the building whose owner “Did the Right Thing”, refused to accept “Hush Money” and endanger lives by renting her property this home. They are taking her building, tearing it down and charge her cost of demolition and legal fees. Yet they have no concern for the environmental health and safety of current resident and/or future residents in the attached twin home living over toxic soil to get sick and or die.
    Who can helps make this fortune 500 oil company pay for their drivers oil spill and destruction of minority owners/victims homes, when oil money shuts down the government and the justice system?

  16. Lawyers in Sydney permalink
    September 2, 2011

    Great things are given in this blog, and i look forward to reading are from you. Keep up the good work.

  17. April 27, 2012

    How can we become Environmental Justice Advocate its is a major concern across the country.

  18. May 8, 2012

    Since you witnessed the burdens, then it would be possible that you could really help these victims.

  19. July 26, 2012

    I’m really glad that I came across this article Lisa. In my opinion it’s important for everyone to be involved with communities before starting their career in whatever area they might practice. Volunteer work can connect you to people who otherwise you wouldn’t necessarily meet. This can surely influence your career choices and the level of dedication to these causes in the future, be that to be an environmental advocate or other causes.
    I read a news, that freshly graduated lawyers in NY will require 50 hours of community work to pass the Bar exam. Some see it as outrageous, but this will surely influence them on their path and who knows maybe more of them will dedicate their career to environmental law.

  20. Niel permalink
    September 9, 2012

    This is a very interesting article and I fully agree with the points you make

  21. gökhan çetinkaya permalink
    April 6, 2013

    I wish to express appreciation to the writer for this wonderful post.

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