Environmental Justice: An Ongoing Commitment

By Kesha Hagerman

As a chemical engineering undergraduate in my final year, I was well aware of regulatory government agencies before interning with EPA in New York City. I heard all about how they regulate air and water pollution, solid wastes, waste dump sites and chemical spills. These regulations were embedded into the chemical engineering curriculum and were therefore, familiar to me.

Environmental justice (EJ) on the other hand, never came up in the classroom. Well, not in the terms in which EPA defines it. After joining the agency, I have realized that EJ is not just simply “going green” by recycling or not littering; EPA’s commitment to EJ means that all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income receive fair treatment and meaningful involvement with respect to the development and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.

I have lived in both Texas and Louisiana; therefore, I have encountered numerous chemical processing plants. Residents have actually nicknamed a city “stink-edina” because of the overwhelming amount of smog. But this is no isolated case; New York has also had issues with poor air quality. More