Finding a Home for Environmental Justice: HUD Seeks Input on EJ Strategy Update

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About the Author: James Potter is the Environmental Justice Coordinator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Jim is the co-chair of the Goods Movement Committee of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) and has participated on the EJIWG since 2006.

The ongoing housing and economic crisis has touched every family across the United States – but for low-income and minority communities, this crisis has been particularly devastating. At the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we believe that all communities deserve equal protection from health hazards, equitable access to the federal decision-making process, and a healthy environment where they can work, live, and play.

HUD, a member of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG), is charged by Executive Order 12898 to develop a strategy for incorporating the principles of environmental justice into our work. We have made it a priority to update our strategy regularly, in order for us to meet with environmental justice stakeholders, get their input, and keep the strategy relevant to the needs and requests of those communities facing environmental justice issues.

It is now time for our current strategy to be updated.

BaltimoreMd_002We want our new strategy to reflect the needs and challenges of the communities disproportionately burdened by environmental injustices; therefore, we are organizing a series of public outreach meetings across the country. In order to make a plan that can have lasting positive impacts, we need to hear from you! We ask community residents and environmental justice advocates to tell us what we are doing right and what we can do to improve our work. This will be a first-hand opportunity to speak directly to the federal staff who work every day to ensure that environmental justice and equitable development are incorporated into everything that we and our grant recipients do.

These outreach meetings will be held across the country at HUD field offices during the first half of September.

  • Detroit, Michigan: September 8, 2016
  • Charleston, West Virginia: September 13, 2016
  • Boston, Massachusetts: September 16, 2016

These meetings will be held in each city at 10:00 a.m. Photo identification will be required of participants to access the building. We know that we must speak with those most impacted by our programs and actions as we look to the future of our work creating strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. During the listening sessions, we will be asking about what this strategy means to attendees, how they’ve been affected by climate change and what environmental justice looks like to them.

USEPA photo by Eric Vance

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If you’re located in one of the cities listed, please come talk to us. You will help us make a better plan so that we can craft strategies that have meaningful impacts for your community. If you are unable to attend the meetings however, there will be additional opportunities for you to contribute to our update. These meetings are just the start. Join EPA’s EJ Listserv to receive current information on the release of the public comment period.

The updated EJ Strategy will be available for public comment later this fall. An announcement in the Federal Register will be followed by public notices so that anyone interested in our environmental justice work can provide suggestions. Feel free to contact me via email or telephone at 202.402.4610 if you have additional questions regarding the listening tour, the public comment period, or the update to our EJ strategy in general.

Access to affordable housing impacts us all. But I know that this challenge impacts us differently, which is why I am honored to be a part of these upcoming listening sessions. I look forward to meeting with all of you and discussing the ways that we can engage with you and your communities to promote the principles of environmental justice in all of the work that we do at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I believe that with your help, we will be able to design a strategy that does truly incorporate the principles of environmental justice and equitable development.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Stakeholder Engagement: Shaping Environmental Justice Near Ports

By Sabrina Johnson

Communities across the country benefit from access to consumer goods, but near-port communities bear a disproportionate burden from the environmental impacts of port activities. It has been well documented that ports and related industry operations frequently impact minority and low-income communities. Near-port communities may experience disproportionate health outcomes due to cumulative environmental exposures from port operations and port-related facilities. Air pollutants are found in higher concentrations along roads and corridors where there is significant truck or rail activity (https://www3.epa.gov/otaq/nearroadway.htm).  Important corridors such as these are found within or near ports.  An analysis in one study showed that millions of people living in the vicinity of 47 ports were exposed to diesel particulate matter levels that were above levels in areas farther from these facilities.

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Click to watch a video on the impacts one community is facing from goods movement issues.

Equipping/empowering overburdened near-port communities to effectively engage with ports and participate in decision-making about environmental, health, and other community-driven concerns associated with port-related activities and corresponding freight transport is a critical component for effectively addressing environmental problems in these communities. We can do this by improving environmental performance at ports and equipping industry and community stakeholders with information, skills, and guidance to develop and implement collaborative solutions that reduce air pollutants and other environmental impacts.

And that’s why we’re excited to let you know about EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality’s near-port community capacity building project and how you can get involved!  The project involves broad stakeholder outreach and participation that has resulted in the development of strategies, tools and information for near-port community and port engagement.   Pilot projects will test and refine the capacity building tools to help communities and ports to develop effective collaboration.

The centerpiece of the project is the Capacity Building Toolkit consisting of:

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    Click to open the documents

    Ports primer for communities: An interactive tool and reference document provides an overview of planning and operations at ports, and characterizes the port industry sector – including environmental and community health impacts associated with port activities. Case studies provide further exploration into challenges and approaches for resolution.

  2. Untitled-2Community action roadmap:  An implementation companion for the Ports Primer that provides a step-by-step process for building capacity and preparing community stakeholders to engage nearby port facilities and influence decision-making on issues that may impact local land use, environmental health, quality of life, and other associated issues of community interest.
  3. Untitled-1Environmental justice primer for ports: Designed to inform the port industry sector of the perspectives, priorities, and challenges often unique to communities with EJ concerns. In addition to orienting the port sector about EJ considerations, this resource is structured to provide step-by-step guidance to improve the effectiveness of port/community engagement in addressing concerns of impacted residential communities.

You can review and provide comments on the draft tools, which are posted for public comment until September 14, 2016. Click here to access draft tools:  www.epa.gov/ports-initiative

Additionally, ports and near-port communities can apply through our website to become a pilot project location to test and refine the draft capacity building tools and associated processes. Applications are also due September 14, 2016.  Direct technical assistance to community and industry stakeholders will be provided during the pilot projects. To apply for the pilot opportunity:  www.epa.gov/ports-initiative/pilot-opportunities-port-and-near-port-community-collaboration.

Please take time to review these materials, provide comments, and apply to submit your community or port for a pilot project. Only through robust engagement, innovation and collaboration can we achieve our shared vision to improve environmental health outcomes for communities affected by ports and associated goods movement facilities.

About the Author: Sabrina Johnson is a Senior Policy Analyst in the EPA’s Office of Transportation & Air Quality (OTAQ). She leads OTAQ’s Near-port Community Capacity Building Project and played a principal role in planning the “National Conversation on Ports” webinar listening sessions and the “National Port Stakeholders Summit.” She also participates on the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group Goods Movement Committee.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Scalable Ideas: Small organizations tackling big problems

Author: Jerome Shabazz

About the Author: Jerome Shabazz is the founder and Executive Director of JASTECH Development Services, Inc., and the Overbrook Environmental Education Center. Under his leadership, the Overbrook Center has trained thousands of students on the Clean Water Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Urban Stormwater Management and other subjects that reduce exposures to toxic substances at home and school. Jerome has over twenty years of training and development experience and has a Master’s of Science Degree in Environmental Protection & Safety Management from St. Joseph’s University.

All across the nation, small environmental justice organizations are challenged with “scaling-up” –taking ingenuity and initiative to address larger concerns in spite of our small size – in order to address widespread environmental issues in our communities. And that’s what our organization in Philadelphia, Juveniles Active in Science & Technology, or JASTECH Development Services, Inc., has been all about: developing innovative and collaborative solutions for improving the built and natural environments of our city.

In 2002, JASTECH applied for and received an EPA Clean Water Act grant to transform a former brownfields site into the Overbrook Environmental Education Center (OEEC). We built the OEEC to empower students to learn both in the academic context and as participants in community reform. Since its inception, the OEEC used sustainable strategies that “do more with less,” by developing dynamic solutions to overcome obstacles typically associated with organizations who have limited resources and small staffs.

In 2014, during a visit to the OEEC, EPA’s Inspector General Arthur Elkins, Jr., remarked how impressed he was with the Center. During a conversation about how our small, nimble non-profit needed support to help our ideas grow bigger through partnerships, Mr. Elkins suggested that we call our concept “scalable ideas.” Since then, this has described our approach to developing collaborative partnerships that deconstruct large community-wide problems into manageable tasks.

GSI Program students doing a field inspection of a rain garden

OEEC students doing a field inspection of a rain garden

The OEEC puts this in action with what we describe as the “3A” approach: Awareness + Assessment + Application. Awareness being the education of, and relationship to the issues; Assessment is taking inventory of community partners, inputs and resources; and Applications are sustainable solution-based remedies. An example where the OEEC put these “scalable ideas” into action is through educating the public on Philadelphia’s combined sewer overflow problems. The OEEC worked collaboratively to build a 15-week green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) training program for local youth. Chevelle Harrison, Philadelphia Water’s Director of Student Engagement said, “GSI teaches students that their actions have a direct impact on the environment.”

The GSI program is a robust partnership based on Philadelphia Water’s Green City and Clean Waters plan and included the US Forest Service, Penn State Center Engaging Philadelphia, PA Department of Environmental Education, AKRF Engineering and others.

Blog pic 1Through the program, students from Philadelphia high schools conceptualize solutions that reduce strain on the city’s combined sewer system. The students are charged with learning “the power of small” – deconstructing the complicated concepts of pollution from sewer overflows into a series of achievable best management practices that can be realized on a neighborhood level.

Prototype for Curtis' fish farm and vertical plant growing system that utilizes rain water as supplemental “make-up” for water that’s lost through transpiration.

Prototype for Curtis’ fish farm and vertical plant growing system that utilizes rain water as supplemental “make-up” for water that’s lost through transpiration.

Before taking part in the GSI program, high school student Ayanna T. never thought much about stormwater and how it affected the city around her.  “I just thought about the sewer, to be honest,” Ayanna said. “I didn’t know there were other ways you could save [stormwater] and use it.” Now, Ayanna can easily list innovative approaches to green stormwater management, and she ticks off three: “bioswales, tree trenches and pervious pavement.” Devan Curtis, a participant in the GSI program, was challenged with finding ways to redirect and reuse rainwater before it runs off into the stormwater collector system. Curtis, who is currently studying civil engineering at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, has spearheaded the development of an aquaponics system that is now in the works.

All too often, we hear about how bigger is better. However, we are inspired by the people in our community who demonstrate that when you think creatively, small ideas can conquer big problems. Whether it’s our students, a citizen scientist, activists, concerned parents, or any of the other “army-of-ones” who inspire big changes with “scalable ideas,” one remedy at a time…we all benefit from their contributions.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Announcing the Youth Leaders for EPA’s Youth Climate Justice Work Group

By Mustafa Santiago Ali

About the author: Mustafa Santiago Ali is the Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization.

As I travel across the nation, I see the incredible work that young people are doing to make our country stronger. The power of youth is undeniable. Their leadership has been a driving force in many of the most successful social justice movements globally. From the Civil Rights movement to the Chicano movement and the American Indian movement, each of these and many more have been driven by young people addressing the injustices happening in their communities.

The legacies of these movements can be seen today throughout the environmental and climate justice movements across the country. Young people are engaged and thinking critically about tackling these challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

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Click to Watch the Video Announcement for the Work Group

And that is why I am pleased that today EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that we have selected 15 emerging young leaders to participate in the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s (NEJAC) Youth Perspectives on Climate Justice Workgroup. The workgroup is comprised of young people, ages 18 to 29, at the forefront of the fight against climate change. They will assist EPA in developing strategies and finding opportunities to combat climate change and to empower other young people to take on the challenge. These youth will amplify the diversity of the NEJAC by contributing unique backgrounds and perspectives that will enhance the work of the Council.

They have relevant hands-on experience from working with communities on projects related to climate change, health and adaptation, environmental science, and economic resilience.

And these young leaders have already accomplished amazing things.

Like soon-to-be high school graduates, Stefan Petrovic, who co-founded a youth initiative emphasizing climate activism, and college-student William DiGravio, who founded the award-winning Students for Climate Action organization, to Kathy Tran, who collaborated with vulnerable populations nationally and internationally while pursuing her doctoral degree.

While Oforiwaa Pee Agyei-Boakye was working internationally on a climate change campaign in Ghana, Anthony Torres was working with various non-profit development agencies in Washington D.C., and Nikita Robinson has continued to work with her tribal community to combat the impacts of climate change in Alaska.

Their work with nongovernmental organizations is vast: varying from Amber Vignieri who works as a Communications Coordinator at Elevate Energy to Eriqah Vincent who works as the National EcoLeaders Coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation to Amanda Nesheiwat who is a UN Representative for the Foundation for Post Conflict Development.

They are fluent in utilizing critical mapping and data tools, like Melake Getabecha, who used mapping tools to show heat vulnerability in communities in Colorado.

Students in Youth Workshop at NEJAC Meeting

Students in Youth Workshop at NEJAC Meeting

They are civil activists – like Yudith Nieto – who works with groups nationally and internationally to build inter-generational movements that advocate for environmental justice, and civil engineers – like Kayla DeVault – who is designing a program on her Native reservation to allow students and professionals to work with tribal communities on climate adaptation and sustainability projects.

They are well versed in critical thinking and cross-cultural communications skills. Devin Crowther have presented a national conferences; Samantha Parker served as an international delegate in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference; and Samantha Shattuck led workshops on youth engagement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Peru.

I know that collaborating with these young people will improve the capacity of the NEJAC and the EPA to develop strategies and to find unique opportunities to combat climate change. If we are willing to create a space for their voices, advice and recommendations, their innovation, energy and ideas can position our country to be leaders in the emerging climate economy.

Congratulations to all those selected! We are excited to learn from you and work with you towards addressing these incredible challenges and opportunities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

My Second Christmas

By Althea Moses

About the author: Althea Moses serves as EPA Region 7’s Environmental Justice Coordinator and the Deputy Director of the Enforcement Coordination Office. Her passion is helping people.  She is a proud Civil Engineering graduate of Prairie View A&M University of Texas.

Almost without exception for the past 15 years I have had what I consider a second Christmas – a day when my heart rate rises like it did when opening gifts when I was a kid. The date I’m referring to is the due date for Environmental Justice grant applications. The sense of anticipation – waiting to learn what projects are being proposed – is what Charlie felt when peeling back the wrapper of a Wonka Bar.

My first gift is reading through the proposals. Many times the applications are from organizations and people whose paths I come across regularly. Through their applications, local communities introduce themselves and their communities. I get most excited though about proposals for communities of which I was previously unaware.

Another gift is the sense of fulfillment that comes from the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of a community in need. It’s not the words on the paper that’s exciting – it’s the possibility of what can be achieved. This excitement comes from all I have seen and learned over the years about the possibility of what can be accomplished through projects that are funded at a relatively small amount compared to many other government grants.

EPA’s EJ grants program, both Small Grants and EJ Collaborative Problem Solving, inspire sheer amazement when I consider the level of creative leveraging through partnerships and volunteers to achieve outputs and outcomes one might compare to projects ten times their monetary size.

Emerging Tools

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Yet another gift is how gratifying it is to see people who started at the neighborhood level with an EJ Small Grant working to understand and address local challenges, now recognized as environmental justice leaders. We have seen tools developed and then used to educate and assist parents and caregivers in reducing children’s asthma attacks and the number of school-days missed.  We have seen the organizing of lead screening events, which taught children as young as pre-school age what it means to avoid and protect themselves from environmental hazards.  How do you explain that lead dust is invisible in soil, so play on the grass?  There’s a preschool curriculum that was developed and demonstrated which does just that!

There are many lessons I have learned from working with grantees which have transformed how I approach my work:

    • Meet people where they are – physically as well as in their understanding. It is amazing the number of people who can be reached, the results achieved, and the resources saved when we go to places where our target audience gathers. We can engage them in a manner in which they relate.
    • Take the time to understand and value what is important to the communities in which you work. This is key to connecting in such a way that encourages mutual understanding, which may result in positive change.
    • “Each one, teach one.” Train-the-trainer is a model that allows projects to be sustaining well beyond funding. When we use this approach, we multiply what we can achieve.
    • Communities want to know what they don’t know about human health and environmental issues.
    • When you bring information about a problem, bring information about the solution. This is hard – it does not excuse us from bringing information about a problem – but challenges us to work hard to find the solution. Sometimes solutions are found through outside partnerships.

EPA’s EJ grant programs are among the smallest pots of money in the agency, but oh, the good they have done educating, empowering, building capacity, and ultimately, making a visible difference in communities across the country.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

From the Lunch Counter to the Kitchen Table: Make Your Voice Heard on Climate Justice

 

 
By Makara Rumley

About the author: Makara Rumley, JD, is the Senior Advisor to the EPA Region 4 Regional Administrator. Her interest in the links between human rights and the environment had its roots in her work with Amnesty International, the National Geographic Society, and GreenLaw.

It’s amazing as I travel around the country, I see the energy, innovation, and thoughtful approaches that youth are developing to address the impacts of climate change. Today’s youth are uniquely positioned to elevate their voices and perspectives about this issue that impacts their lives today and tomorrow, as well as the lives of their future generations. Their focus on the most vulnerable communities is one of the driving forces behind the climate justice movement.

This commitment of positive social change has its roots in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Earlier this year, Jibreel Khazan, one of the Greensboro Four who began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, used the 55th anniversary of the protest as a call for youth action, noting that:

Climate change is young people’s ‘lunch counter moment’ for the 21st century. When my three classmates and I sat down at that lunch counter to end segregation we did not know what the outcome would be. We simply knew that we had to act. We had to take bold action for necessary change to come about. It is in the tradition of civil and human rights struggle that young people today are calling for action on climate change. It is the biggest threat to justice and opportunity our planet has ever seen.

Climate change is considered an environmental stressor that has catapulted a new generation of leaders and activists into the environmental movement. Youth constitute the majority of the population in many countries and have increasingly strong sense of social awareness and environmental perspectives. The efforts of the New York City Climate Justice Youth Summit as well as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Climate Change Initiative are evidence that an organized and forward thinking delegation of youth is taking root in the climate change conversation. It is critical that these voices be heard and viewpoints incorporated into policymaking.

We recognize the key role that youth play in bringing awareness to climate change and offering solutions to transform our societies towards a low-carbon and climate resilient future. It is essential that youth have a seat at the table and help inform the hard decisions that must be made that affect so many. Thus, the formation of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Youth Perspectives on Climate Justice Work Group is our effort to include young people in assisting EPA in addressing climate change concerns. This advisory work group is the first of its kind in any federal agency. We are looking forward to working with a geographically diverse group of emerging thought leaders in the climate change space. The work group will comprise up to 15 leaders between the ages of 18 and 29 to assist us in developing strategies and finding opportunities to combat climate change and empower other young people to take on the challenge. Applications for the work group are due to EPA by November 30, so spread the word.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy put it best in a recent blog when she wrote that

Fighting for environmental justice, and climate justice, echoes the spirit of America’s great civil rights leaders; it’s a spirit fueled by our moral obligation to leave our children a world safer and rich with opportunity. History proves even the most wrenching strains on justice can be unwound, with a committed, diverse, and vocal coalition of people calling for change. That’s why EPA, the Hip Hop Caucus, and organizations around the country are fighting for climate justice—so we can further fairness and opportunity for all.

We need your power. We need your voices. Act now. Your voice matters!

For more information about how to engage in this effort, contact me at nejac@epa.gov. Continue reading

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Reforesting: a new tune for community resiliency

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About the author: Carolina Diaz de Villegas is a recent graduate of the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University, where she, Kiara Rodriguez, and Michelle Bravo have been providing technical assistance to the Town of Medley as part of projects developed under EPA’s College/Underserved Community Partnership Program.

As many of you may already know, the Everglades — home to countless native plant and animal species — is not only one of Florida’s greatest treasures, but also the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the United States. Unfortunately, the Everglades ecosystem faces constant threats from urban and agricultural expansion.

In an effort to shift to a more sustainable way of life, efforts are underway to counteract decades of human driven land use by reforesting the small town of Medley, Florida – one tree at a time.

Medley is home to about 1,100 residents in northwest Miami-Dade County. For nearly 85% of the residents, Spanish is their first language. Residents have to drive several miles to get to the closest grocery store. Medley also is home to approximately 1,800 businesses, bringing the weekday population to nearly 60,000. More than 80% of the city is covered in impervious paving due to this industrial activity. As a result, this largely industrial town has become a food desert with heavy air pollution. An urban food desert typically has plenty of convenience stores, liquor stores, and fast food joints, but little or no access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.

With the support of Medley Town Mayor Roberto Martell and EPA’s College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) , my fellow Florida International University students and I are working with local residents to address these issues.

We began by planting native trees at Medley’s Lakeside Retirement Park. We also planted a variety of native flowers and shrubs near the entrance to attract not only passersby but also pollinators. The change is so dramatic that students have informally dubbed the area the “Medley Botanical Garden.”

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Click on picture to watch video

Since education is the key to progress, we worked to help local community members better understand the importance of trees and living a sustainable lifestyle in their urban landscape. My colleague Kiara Rodriguez and I talked about the importance of these principles to kids in the local afterschool care program. We taught them about carbon sequestration, the importance of recycling, and even climate change — a term most had never heard before! We also visited the Community Center during its Saturday food distribution and spoke with the elders about these topics.

This summer, supported by grants from our university, we planted more trees and created two “All-in-One” food gardens. Because much of the land surface around the Medley Lake retirement center is covered by paving and other impervious surfaces, we created an aboveground garden that uses harvested rainwater. We planted several summer crops and are working with the community center to supplement the garden soil with food waste from the cafeteria. The project has many benefits – it produces fresh food for a community in the middle of a food desert, it uses a water-efficient method for watering, and it will reduce food waste by generating compost to supplement the garden.

Here we are standing proudly next to some of our newly planted trees, along with our professor Dr. Tiffany Troxler.

Here we are standing proudly next to some of our newly planted trees, along with our professor Dr. Tiffany Troxler.

My fellow student Michelle Bravo led other volunteers who built a pergola that is a central feature of the developing Medley Botanical Garden. Ms. Bravo is conducting research that showed that a botanical garden could both improve the health of elderly residents and increase carbon sequestration with the new trees planted. In a continued commitment to Medley, other Florida International University students will be working with the town to develop an economic development plan.

By increasing the amount of green mass available for carbon sequestration, we are helping Medley in the ongoing battle against climate change on a local scale, while also increasing awareness about these issues in future generations.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Your Voice Matters! Help Shape How Federal Agencies Move Forward on Environmental Justice

By Mustafa Santiago Ali

About the author: Mustafa Ali is the Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization.

Public forums in which community members participate (whether online or in-person), provide problem-solving ideas and actions that have taken environmental justice to new heights. The importance of these conversations, to which stakeholders bring their experience, expertise, and knowledge, echo the 10th principle of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development:

Environmental decisions are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens …[who] shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment held by public authorities, including … the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.

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Click to watch ‘The Road to Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice’ Video

Over the years, I have witnessed the power of community input that has shaped how federal agencies are integrating environmental justice into their policies and programs. Notably, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) was created in 1994 in response to public comments asking the federal family to address — in a holistic manner — the myriad of challenges and opportunities facing communities that are overburdened and under-resourced.

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Community Meeting, Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill, 2010

As part of its effort to engage as many stakeholders as possible, the EJ IWG is seeking public input about its new draft Action Agenda Framework. The Framework is a strategic plan to define new goals for the next three years and advance greater federal agency collaboration to improve quality of life and expand economic opportunity. As a forum for federal agencies, the EJ IWG strives to build comprehensive solutions to address environmental justice and ensure that the public has meaningful opportunities for participation in the decision-making process.

In addition to the public comment period, which starts today, August 25, and runs through September 25, the EJ IWG is hosting two national webinars about the draft Framework. Don’t miss out on this important opportunity to influence decision-making that is fundamental to improving federal agency environmental justice initiatives, programs, and activities.

I urge you to participate in one of the live webinars to learn more about the Framework. Information about each webinar is listed below. Mark and your calendar and register today. Note that both webinars will cover the same information:

  • Tuesday, September 1, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Eastern)
  • Wednesday, September 16, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Eastern)

You can RSVP for both webinars here. For more information or if you need special accommodation, contact Kevin Olp, olp.kevin@epa.gov. Webinar materials will be forwarded to participants a week before each presentation.

Youth1In 1991, environmental justice advocates laid out 17 principles for environmental justice. Among them was Principle 7, which called for the “participation as equal partners at every level of decision-making.” Voicing your comments during the public comment period will directly influence government decision-making and actions for the next three years. Help shape an effective Framework that addresses environmental justice issues in environmental protection, housing, transportation, economic development, energy policy, management of natural and cultural resources, and health disparities.

Take an active part in developing goals and activities that collectively advance environmental justice principles in an integrated effort by reviewing the Framework and providing your comments to ejstrategy@epa.gov.

Remember. Your voice matters!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Science for Sustainable and Healthy Tribes

Cross-posted from It’s Our Environment

By EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy

Untitled-1Last week I signed the Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, which clarifies how EPA works with federally and state recognized tribes, indigenous community-based grassroots organizations, and other indigenous peoples to address their environmental and public health concerns.

American Indian communities have been inextricably tied to the natural environment for generations. From cultural identify to sustenance, many of those unique traditions endure. That’s why I’m so excited about the six tribal environmental health research grants to tribal communities and universities that we recently announced.

EPA is proud to have a long and rich history of supporting environmental and public health protection for all communities. These EPA supported grants will increase our knowledge of the threats posed by climate change and indoor air pollution, while incorporating traditional ecological knowledge to reach culturally appropriate and acceptable adaptation strategies to address these threats.

There is a unique need for tribal-focused research to identify those climate-related impacts and to reduce associated health and ecological risks. EPA has been actively engaged in supporting such research, and I’m thrilled EPA is providing grants to further that work. The grants will support the study of the impacts of climate change and indoor air pollution on tribal health and way of life. Grantees include:

  • The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium located in Anchorage, Alaska will be looking at ways to assess, monitor, and adapt to the threats of a changing climate to the sustainability of food and water in remote Alaska native villages.
  • The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in La Conner, Washington will be examining coastal climate impacts to traditional foods, cultural sites, and tribal community health and well-being.
  • Yurok Tribe in Klamath, California will be identifying, assessing, and adapting to climate change impacts to Yurok water and aquatic resources, food security and tribal health.
  • Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Montana will research climate change adaptation and waterborne disease prevention on the Crow Reservation.
  • The University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will examine ways to improve indoor air quality and reduce environmental asthma triggers in tribal homes and schools.
  • The University of Massachusetts-Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts will measure indoor air quality in tents as related to wood smoke exposures and identify potential health risks in remote subsistence hunting communities in North America.

The health of our communities depends upon the health of our environment. These grants will help build prosperous and resilient tribal communities both now and for future generations. Like the enduring memories of my tour of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and tribal environmental program in North Dakota, they will have an impact long after my service as EPA Administrator.

About the author: Gina McCarthy currently serves as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Hip Hop is Acting on Climate!

By Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.

We have students. We have celebrities, recording artists, and cultural influencers. We have academics and experts. And we have activists and community leaders. We even had the EPA Administrator. They all are working together to act on climate, to demonstrate that communities of color across this country want common sense climate solutions.

Untitled-1This past spring the Hip Hop Caucus organized the “Act On Climate Campus Tour” that visited Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and African-American neighborhoods around the country. Armed with the knowledge of the disproportionate life-threatening impacts of carbon pollution on our communities, African American communities have joined the call for climate action. From people, particularly poor African Americans, drowning in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to our elderly passing away in the extreme heat waves in Chicago over the recent summers, to the homes and small businesses destroyed in our communities in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, the devastation and destruction of increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change is getting worse and more dangerous before our eyes.

As champions of health issues, the Hip Hop community knows that in the African American community we suffer disproportionately from higher rates of asthma and other respiratory and heart related diseases as well as cancer. We live closer to sources of carbon pollution, like power plants, which can be a major contributor to higher rates of morbidity and mortality. These proposed standards from the EPA would decrease pollution that is causing illness and death in our neighborhoods.

There is no doubt that the cost of life, the cost of health, and the economic cost of natural disasters and increasingly expensive energy and food, all which disproportionately impact communities of color, makes it imperative for us to act on climate. Short term and long term, these carbon pollution standards are good for African American communities. They will create jobs, save money, and protect public health.

Untitled-2The tales of energy rate increases by those who oppose these standards are wildly speculative. More importantly, they only tell one part of the story, because they do not account for the cost to communities of color of not implementing these standards. There is great economic cost of inaction. We are already paying more for air conditioning in a warming world. We are paying more for water and food produced in times of drought, and we are paying more for the cost of rebuilding after increasingly violent natural disasters. Curbing climate change through these power plant standards will also curb these cost-of-living increases that our communities are already experiencing.

Further, the speculative claim that our communities will suffer job losses if the proposed standards are approved do not account for the economic benefit from resulting job creation through green innovation. Every dollar put into clean energy creates three times as many jobs as putting that same dollar into fossil fuels.

This is a moment for great leadership. I know the Hip Hop community will continue to lead the fight and use our voices and talents in our great and continuous struggle in this country for freedom, for civil rights, and for access to economic opportunity and livable communities.

30123_393410242986_2746148_nThat is why the Hip Hop community must lead and must act to curb the impacts of climate change that our communities are suffering from now. Our success in getting young people, particularly young people of color, involved with environmental issues is because we harness the mass appeal of Hip Hop and the power of cultural expression to engage and mobilize collective action to affect change. For young people in urban communities, the Hip Hop Caucus provides an entry point to get involved that is fun and familiar. We frame the issues in relevant ways to mobilize our communities to action and we take a holistic approach to community empowerment. Ultimately, we exist for the collective of young people who are not drawn to traditional campaigns or organizations, but who need and want the knowledge, tools, and resources to become a recognized force that has the ability to effect change in this country and around the world.

This week, the EPA is holding public hearings across the nation to give people an opportunity to present data, views or arguments about the Clean Power Plan that we’ve spent months fighting for. These hearings are the most important event in our movement at this time in our fight for clean air and clean water. It is critical that people of color communities engage on this subject, whether they have attended in person or submit a public comment. If you can’t attend the hearings, you can submit comments directly to EPA until October 16, 2014. You also can leave your public comment: http://www.actonclimate.com/?ntl=true.

Can’t Stop, Wont’ Stop….All Power to the People!

About the author: Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, is a minister, community activist, and a national leader within the green movement. Rev. Yearwood has been successfully bridging the gap between communities of color and environmental advocacy for the past decade. Rolling Stone declared Rev Yearwood one of our country’s “New Green Heroes” and Huffington Post named him one of the top 10 change-makers in the green movement.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.