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Real Progress on Environmental Justice

2013 March 20

Cross-posted from  the CEQ blog; http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/blog

By EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe and CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley

All Americans deserve to have clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and healthy communities in which to raise their families. These things are an essential part of what it means to live in America.

But too often, America’s low-income and minority communities bear the brunt of the nation’s pollution. That also means that these communities are disproportionately affected by the many serious – and costly – illnesses that are linked to pollution, and that they are less attractive to the businesses and investments that help create thriving neighborhoods. And unfortunately, these groups often have little say in the decision-making process that can fix these inequities.

The Obama Administration is working to address these disparities. As part of an initiative led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Americans across the country are benefiting from new approaches by Federal agencies to ensure healthy, thriving communities.

In new annual reports, agencies show the steps they have taken to ensure they are meeting environmental justice goals, including engaging overburdened communities early and often in decision-making, integrating environmental justice into grant application processes and agency programs, and improving the tools and methods used to identify and address concerns. This work impacts areas ranging from education and labor to health services, housing and more. For example:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is helping to provide green jobs and workforce development opportunities for veterans in low-income communities.
  • The Department of Labor is now translating educational materials and hazard alerts into Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese for non-English speaking workers.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is using Health Impact Assessments to proactively address the potential impacts a policy or project may have on overburdened populations’ health.
  • The Department of Education awarded $35 million in Promise Neighborhoods grants to create safe and healthy spaces for children and improve the educational and developmental outcomes of youth in distressed neighborhoods.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), building on the America’s Great Outdoors Presidential Initiative, is studying the federal government’s urban assets and developing ways to promote work opportunities on public lands in urban areas.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture worked with American Indian, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities and intertribal organizations to meet information needs for protecting their communities from the impacts of climate change, including working with individual tribes on place-based responses to climate change that serve as models for future efforts.

Moreover, inter-agency collaboration is setting the foundation for even more progress. The Administration has reinvigorated the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, and hosted the first-ever White House Forum on Environmental Justice to engage stakeholders from across the country. In addition, federal agencies, working together, have released an Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities and helped communities nationwide improve access to affordable housing, provide more transportation options, lower transportation costs, and reduce pollution through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

We are making great progress, but there is still much work to do. Across the federal government, we are committed to better serving communities burdened by harmful pollution, engaging these communities as we work to address environmental issues, and ensuring environmental justice is part of federal decision-making for the benefit of all Americans.

About the author: Bob Perciasepe is the Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
About the author: Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

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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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    March 20, 2013

    Good Luck Environmental Justice Ideas…….!

    It’s too hard to build this idea. Many countries-worldwide appear its program with the great goal, but empty progress. However, by Federal Agencies progress, I am sure this goal could be success. Amen……!!!!!

  2. Margaret Motheral permalink
    March 20, 2013

    In 2006, the City of Philadelphia dug up a contaminated site of the former Anastasi Masonry Co. and also former history has been a off load rail yard with coal and gas station for coal yard. Any railyard is a red flag for contamination. Plus there is an underground stream. Witness showed up who used to work as stock boy and daily dumped oil waste and other chemical fluids directly in ground where the creek surface after decades through excavation with no permits. Demolition of brick coal bins, old company store and cement and no dust control landed adjacent neighbor in hospital. Vapors from oil base and other chemicals released also made her ill. 3 doctors told city to have me removed from house which was surrounded by this construction project. Politically connected lawyers and elected officials and developers lied about past history of site and no environmental report was done. Right to know was refused. Confessions of illegal removal of top soil followed forced excavation from site. Recently letter surfaced from Senior City Planner stating a conspiracy was engineered against me fro City Council office and aide to District attorney. I am still being treated for all manner of injury and the target of assault, hate crimes, obstruction of justice and threats of jail, looney bin and rape to retaliate against my whistle blowing and cover up the crimes on the site. I have boxes of evidence yet the EPA refuses to investigate even though the crimes are obvious. I’ve not been able to live in my home for 7 years, one cat dead of cancer and other cat and self still ill. The EPA has sided with the political corruption in Philadelphia regarding the Devon project and destroyed my life and harmed my family forever. I was the canary in the coal mine and did all the leg work for you, yet you left me to die and who know what slower long term affects this site will cause residents.

  3. Court permalink
    March 21, 2013

    We have lots of need for this in our national forests utah

  4. Master Melvin M. Lusterio permalink
    March 21, 2013

    The Good Force be with you!

    Excellent, Bob! Keep up the good work!

    Live forever & prosper!

  5. Anna Harris permalink
    March 21, 2013

    Today US is under crisis as low-income and minority communities are facing the brunt of the nation’s pollution and are deeply affected by serious illness. Various governmental bodies should step forward to integrate environmental justice.

  6. Jane permalink
    March 23, 2013

    I have read all the blog sites and the one that seems to be focused on what is happening to everyday citizens is the “environmental justice in action site” http://blog.epa.gov/ej/

    It would be great if you reposted their stories or atleast focused on what is happening in communities.

  7. elena permalink
    March 12, 2014

    Today US is under crisis as low-income and minority communities are facing the brunt of the nation’s

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