Environmental Justice in Action

Building the Next Generation of Climate Justice Leaders

About the Author: Joanna Stancil is the Senior Advisor for State and Private Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service. She is a member of the Climate Change Sub-Committee of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. This subcommittee is responsible for leading the charge of the EMI Climate Justice Initiative.

If the future belongs to our youth, then we must include our youth in addressing our future’s key issues, such as climate change and climate justice.

In 2015, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG), in collaboration with the White House, announced the Educate, Motivate, and Innovate (EMI) Climate Justice Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to educate by providing a two-way learning experience, motivate by igniting interest in climate justice, and innovate by embracing opportunities for creative thought and action.

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Student Panel during EMI Workshop at the 2016 National Environmental Justice Conference

This initiative would be incomplete, however, if it did not target those most disproportionately impacted by climate change. It has been well documented that the impacts of a warming and increasingly unstable climate are already weighing more heavily on underserved, low-income, minority, and tribal communities. That’s why the EMI initiative builds collaborative relationships between federal government agencies and Minority-Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.

Earlier this year, three students were selected and asked to share the projects they had been developing in their local communities during the EMI’s inaugural training workshop held as part of the 2016 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program.

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Soh-Yoke Bravo,  from Florida International University, examined the relationship between reforestation and carbon sequestration.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the Toxic Release Inventory Challenge. Soh-Yoke Bravo, from Florida International University, examined the relationship between reforestation and carbon sequestration.

The workshop focused on the effects of climate change on communities and featured training on EPA’s EJSCREEN, an environmental justice screening tool that provides users powerful data and mapping capabilities to access environmental and demographic information. Hands-on training with EJSCREEN allowed participants to explore how the tool can help them identify and better understand potential community vulnerabilities. Users identified communities they were concerned about and used the tool to better understand demographic and environmental trends for the area.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the Toxic Release Inventory Challenge.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the TRI Challenge.

Due to the success of the inaugural EMI workshop, we are excited to announce that the 2nd annual EMI workshop will be held during the March 8-10, 2017 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program in Washington, DC.

The EMI initiative has released the Call for Student Abstracts to all students attending Minority Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities, who are interested in participating in the EMI workshop. The workshop at the 2017 National Environmental Justice Conference will provide a forum for the selected students to share their work addressing the impacts of climate change on communities with environmental justice concerns.

We are looking for abstracts that address resiliency, adaptation and mitigation with a focus on relationships between climate change and climate justice and human health, environmental health, culture, traditional practices, and/or economic development.

Of particular interest are:

  • Technical environmentalism – green apps
  • Geo-mapping
  • Forest or landscape impacts and community solutions
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Capacity building
  • Green and renewable energy: just transition, just sustainability
  • Climate change impacts: water/sewer infrastructure enhancement
  • Wetlands protection
  • Human health and safety reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Impact of residential and commercial development

Interested individuals should visit this webpage, or contact Joanna Stancil for additional information on how to submit their abstract.

These young minds are indeed the next generation of climate justice leaders and we are honored to offer opportunities for them to expand their knowledge about the environment and climate and to hone their leadership skills.  We truly believe that with help from these young people, we will be able to address our climate concerns with solutions that are equitable and sustainable.

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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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The ‘So What?’ of EJSCREEN

map layersBy Hallah Elbeleidy

We exist in a time when geography is increasingly being recognized as a primary indicator for who, in our societies, benefits from access to resources and who does not. Mapping tools have the unique ability to show relationships between variables that may not have seemed relevant before. Although I, as a geographer, have a vested interest in promoting the relevancy of my discipline, you don’t have to look further than EJSCREEN, EPA’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool, to draw these same conclusions.

However, I still think it’s imperative to ask, “so what?”

Perhaps the most daunting time in my graduate career was having to answer the “so what?” of my chosen research topic, the cause of all causes that impassions me until this day. The “so what?” of research motivates me to ask even more difficult questions like who will benefit from a project, what are its impacts and, ultimately, do I have the passion to get it done.

Click on the photo to Launch the EJSCREEN tool!

Click on the photo to Launch EJSCREEN!

My experiences in academia, and the non-profit and public sectors have taught me that well-designed instruction at all stages in a project are imperative to success, and these same experiences have shown me that this consideration is overlooked at times. Practicing education can take place internally among project organizers and externally where outreach to the public can have a profound effect on the success of a project or, I daresay, a mapping tool.

As a research fellow with EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), my goal is to get to the crux of this “so what?” dilemma with EJSCREEN, and the path I am taking to answer this question is education. I believe the next step forward must be creating outreach materials to educate the public on the uses of EJSCREEN, the people affected, and why it matters.

I am developing case studies that exemplify how federal, state, and community stakeholders employ EJSCREEN because I believe it is a practical and fruitful exercise and so do you, according to the feedback you provided us. In addition, OEJ is launching the EJSCREEN user impact survey, a short survey designed to capture how you are using the mapping tool to further your analyses in your personal and professional lives. Share with us a time when you used EJSCREEN, the results, your analysis of those results, and your recommendations for improving the tool. The survey will be open until November 8, 2016. We will select a variety of responses that reflect the diversity of our users and will showcase these stories on EPA’s EJSCREEN website based on unique uses and innovativeness.

Make sure to check out the EJSCREEN user impact survey website to learn how to submit your questions, comments, and suggestions about the survey! You can access this website at https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen/ejscreen-user-impact-survey.

Click on the photo to learn how to use the EJSCREEN tool.

Click on the photo to learn how to use the EJSCREEN tool.

The goals of answering the “so what?” of EJSCREEN are to provide a rich set of examples the public can use to inspire them to make new connections between health and environment that are not always apparent; build on their EJSCREEN knowledge by practicing how to recreate a particular result featured in the case study; collaborate with others who are working on environmental justice in their community or region; and share these stories with others who want to learn more about environmental justice.

Help us succeed by participating in the EJSCREEN user impact survey. The ability for us at the EPA to implement change, after all, is inextricably bound to you—the public—and your trust in, use of, and feedback to what we create.

This research is supported by an appointment to the Research Participation Program for the United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Environmental Justice administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the US Department of Energy and the EPA.

About the Author: Hallah Elbeleidy received an MS in Geography from Penn State University in 2015. Her thesis examined tensions between privatization and ecological preservation in the city using Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey as a case study. She was awarded an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship with EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) where she is designing and building educational materials on EJSCREEN case studies.

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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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The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council: advancing intergenerational principles of environmental justice

NEJAC Members at the 2016 Meeting in Gulfport, Mississippi

NEJAC Members at the 2016 Meeting in Gulfport, Mississippi

By Karen L. Martin

It is an exciting time to be working on environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency. The Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) has been revitalized with renewed vigor. The products of Plan EJ 2014 are being used throughout the EPA and around the entire country.

And, the Office of Environmental Justice is completing the finalization of our EJ 2020 Action Agenda: our strategic plan for implementing environmental justice in the agency for the next four years.

There is real momentum behind environmental justice at the EPA.

And in the thick of all of that work, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) has been there.

There are still plenty of challenges ahead and there is much work that remains to be done. NEJAC Poster3Whether it be ensuring safe drinking water for our most vulnerable populations, using data from new monitoring methods to grapple with the impacts of climate change and the future of climate justice for our country’s youth, or looking at how we measure community-driven impacts of our environmental justice work, NEJAC continues to help propel us forward on the path of environmental justice.

The EPA established the NEJAC in 1993 to obtain independent perspectives from a broad spectrum of stakeholders involved in the environmental justice movement. As a federal advisory committee, the NEJAC is chartered to provide the Administrator with advice and recommendations on integrating environmental justice considerations into the agency’s programs, policies, and day-to-day activities.

The issues around environmental justice are often complex and involve deeply held opinions, which is why the NEJAC provides an environment for all parties to express their viewpoints. As the NEJAC grows over the decades, we have seen how new people brings new leadership, new ideas, and new ways of approaching these ever complicated problems.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy listens to feedback during a 2015 NEJAC meeting.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy listens to feedback during a 2015 NEJAC meeting.

This vitality, that is brought by new NEJAC members, to keep finding innovative solutions is the energy that is both welcome and needed to keep pushing environmental justice forward.

While the NEJAC looks ahead, we are also focused on the intergenerational period that the environmental justice movement is currently in. The NEJAC is not the environmental justice movement, but it occupies an important place in environmental justice conversation nationally and provides a forum for critical voices to inform the EPA and federal policymaking around environmental justice issues.  And we fortunately happen to have just the leaders on board to help us navigate these intergenerational times.

It is with great excitement that we welcome back a host of environmental justice elders, such as Richard Moore, the first chair of the NEJAC, who will serve again as NEJAC Chair during these critical next two years. He will be joined on the council by long-time environmental justice leaders Dr. Mildred McClain from Harambe House in Savannah, Georgia and long-time Memphis area advocate Rita Harris with the Sierra Club. We are also appointing Jill Witkowski-Heaps and Javier Torres as co-vice chairs.

In addition, we are pleased to announce four additional members from the new generation of environmental justice leaders.

From burgeoning young community activist, Dr. Erica Holloman of the Southeast CARE Coalition, to Arsenio Mataka, the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs at California EPA. We are thrilled to have a strong industry perspective thanks to Gregory Bertelsen, the Senior Director of Energy and Resource Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers and Sylvia Marie Orduño, a community organizer with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

This is an incredible, talented, and dedicated slate of both veteran and new NEJAC members and we are confident that their guidance will ensure that the perspectives of the community and the direction of the environmental justice movement throughout this country remain central to our work at the Agency.

About the Author: Karen L. Martin serves as the National Program Manager for the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. She has worked with communities on environmental issues for over 20 years.

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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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Designing Our Future: engaging students on how to plan with an environmental justice mindset

~3122862[1]About the Author: Kofi Boone is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at North Carolina State University. His work focuses on the changing nature of communities and developing tools for enhanced community engagement and design.

Communities negatively impacted by city planning processes are most often the communities that lack the opportunity to participate in designing the environment around them. Whether it be the placement of amenities like parks or access to public transportation infrastructure, the narrative tends to be the same: low-income and minority populations aren’t involved in the design-making.

But I think that this problem presents an increasingly important opportunity for students interested in designing and planning for environmental justice.

Last year, North Carolina State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture offered its first “Environmental Social Equity and Design” environmental justice course.  With this course, I sought to illustrate that the alignment between social justice and design, though not new, is nevertheless still imperative.

Click on the photo to read the strategies on "Creating Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities."

Click on the photo to read the strategies on “Creating Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities.”

EPA regards this intersection, also known as equitable development, as an approach for meeting the needs of underserved communities with policies and programs that reduce disparities and foster healthy and vibrant communities.

I assisted students, from a range of disciplines, to gain experience with the issues and opportunities melding the worlds of environmental design with equity and justice. Frequently, questions were raised to challenge the students, such as:

How did “equity” become the most common contemporary term used when discussing these challenges?

How does “equity” differ from “justice” – or its predecessor, “environmental racism,” particularly in regards to the roles designers and planners play in these situations?

To facilitate the course, guest speakers shared their real world experiences working in communities. Dr. Danielle Spurlock, Anita Brown-Graham, and Randy Hester spoke about environmental justice and design in an academic context while practitioners like Vernice Miller-Travis, Alisa Hefner, and Carlton Eley of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice provided the insights they learned through project implementation.

Mr. Eley spoke to the significance of the course in saying that teaching environmental justice isn’t new. However, teaching environmental justice in the context of planning and design represents an important milestone. The bulk of course activity was the action-based research, which pushed students beyond the comfort of the academic setting and into active hands-on environmental work. These projects helped to illustrate to students that there is often an extreme contrast between the design work that receives mainstream attention and the social and environmental inequities that continue to plague communities.

Tia Hall, Cultural Alchemist at Spirithouse, leads a discussion on transportation equity. Students researched the social impacts of changes in the route of the Bull City Connector: a free Durham city bus that no longer connects routes throughout the city to the Durham Station.

Tia Hall, Cultural Alchemist at Spirithouse, leads a discussion on transportation equity. Students researched the social impacts of changes in the route of the Bull City Connector: a free Durham city bus that no longer connects routes throughout the city to the Durham Station.

Students were matched with several local groups to provide technical assistance in their on-going efforts. These included working with Spirithouse Inc. on transportation equity issues ranging from disparities in access to Durham’s free circulator bus to perceptions of safety in a local urban trail. Students worked with the Duke Durham Partnership’s Quality Of Life Project to document ten years of strategies to stabilize a near downtown neighborhood by embracing growth and minimizing displacement.

Another group of students provided inventory and analysis to support an informal downtown public space, Chickenbone Park, as a democratic space. Another group explored street economy and produced short video biographies showing the daily lives of people, such as Joe’s Story, working in informal urban sectors, like the Food Vendors in Durham.

These opportunities provided students the ability to discuss land use and community design strategies with community-based organizations, local and regional decision-makers, developers, and other stakeholders who are all striving to build healthy, sustainable, and inclusive neighborhoods. Much of this framework was borrowed from the EPA’s framework on “Creating Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities: Strategies for Advancing Smart Growth, Environmental Justice, and Equitable Development.”

The overall reception of the course by students and local groups was overwhelmingly positive. I am certain that due to the continuing demand by students for more exposure to these issues it will soon be the expectation, rather than the exception, that design schools incorporate the tenets of environmental justice and equitable development in their curriculums

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

EJustice_008

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

Community Meeting BP Oil Spill 2

 

 

 

 

 

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.

TangierIslandVa_002

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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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Clean Energy in a Revitalized Spartanburg

Re-posted from the White House Blog

By Rohan Patel

Vulnerable communities around the country are transforming their neighborhoods through collaborative partnerships. When their voices, ideas, and visions are honored, amazing things can happen.

Almost 20 years ago, residents in Spartanburg, South Carolina, began to formulate their vision for change. It started with assistance from EPA’s regional office in Atlanta, when the community discovered the sources of public health and environmental problems in their neighborhoods. As a former mill town, Spartanburg had faced disinvestment for many years. As manufacturing facilities shut down, a 30 acre dump site and a three acre site with leaking underground storage tanks was left behind, exposing residents to toxic air and water pollution.

But that wasn’t the end of the story of Spartanburg; it was the beginning of the revitalization and renewal of the community. In 1997, longtime resident Harold Mitchell prompted EPA to investigate the causes of rare cancers and respiratory diseases that were affecting his family, friends, and neighbors in Spartanburg. The link to the legacy of pollution from years past became clear. Mitchell soon founded a program called ReGenisis to address these significant environmental concerns and to reverse the blight, disinvestment, and hopelessness impacting the neighborhood.

Over the last 20 years ReGenesis has led a collaborative and transformational effort to revive Spartanburg. It started with a $20,000 EPA environmental justice small grant, a program that has provided over $24 million to over 1,400 community-based organizations. Mr. Mitchell and his community members did something extraordinary – they leveraged that $20,000 into more than $300 million in public and private funding to turn things around. With investments from federal, state, and local government, as well as private foundations, ReGenisis spearheaded the effort to clean up the Superfund sites, bring in 500 affordable housing units, six health clinics, job training programs and many other amenities that sparked far-reaching positive changes in Spartanburg. This model inspired EPA to develop its Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Model and subsequent CPS grant program.

Today, I had the opportunity to participate in the first Clean Energy Savings for All Summit to highlight one of the crowning achievements of the revitalization effort in Spartanburg: the Arkwright Solar Farm, which is being built directly on top of one of the Superfund sites that was responsible for environmental contamination in the community. It’s a powerful symbol of the transformation that has happened in these communities. What once was a source of pollution and blight, the former Arkwright landfill is now being covered with 12,000 solar panels that will bring jobs and a source of clean energy that can power almost 500 homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

For authentic and sustainable change to happen, it must be driven by communities. The story of Spartanburg is a lesson in how government can partner with communities, empower them to find solutions to their problems, and develop innovative and collaborative strategies to make them a reality. The solar farm is the latest chapter in the story of the revitalization of Spartanburg, and we are excited to continue to raise awareness of these examples so other communities across the country can follow the path from surviving to thriving.

About the author Rohan Patel: Special Assistant to the President, Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Senior Advisor for Climate and Energy Policy.

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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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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.

Untitled-4

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:

  1. Untitled-3

    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.

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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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Explore EPA’s Annual AirTrends Report 2016 Using a New Interactive Web Application

Then: "The George Washington Bridge in Heavy Smog. View toward the New Jersey Side of the Hudson River," May 1973. Now: "Thermal Inversion Freedom Tower," March 2013.

Then: “The George Washington Bridge in Heavy Smog,” May 1973.
Now: “Thermal Inversion Freedom Tower,” March 2013.

By Arthur Zuco

Imagine standing on the banks of the Hudson River, air so thick with smog you can barely make out the massive pillars of the George Washington Bridge. Cars zoom past you fueled by leaded gasoline. A faint sound of music wafts through the air.

Wait. Is that disco music?

Though many communities still face a variety of air quality issues, our nation’s air quality has steadily improved since 1970. In all those years, many would claim that cleaning up our air would come at the expense of economic growth.

Yet, in the same period of time, gross domestic product is up almost 250 percent and aggregate emissions are down 70 percent. So why bring all this – and the nightmarish memories of platform shoes and leisure suits – up now?

Well, EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation recently released its annual AirTrends Report 2016, which tracks air quality data and trends through 2015. It’s important to track progress as we work to ensure all Americans are free from breathing toxic and harmful air pollution. We know that overall air quality is improving but we can’t stop yet.

Click on the photo to view the interactive air quality and emissions data update.

Click on the photo to view the interactive air quality and emissions data update.

There is still much work to do, especially in our communities with pressing environmental justice concerns. Recent studies have reaffirmed that certain communities, including low-income communities and communities of color, are disproportionately affected by the impacts of air pollution. Therefore, it is imperative that we utilize tools, such as the Air Trends Report, to identify how and where our air quality is improving, and where it is not, so we can prioritize those areas that most need our assistance.

So, go check out the report!

Explore the interactive air quality and emissions data update

It is presented through an interactive web app featuring a suite of visualization tools that allow the user to:

  • Air QualityLearn about air pollution and how it can affect our health and environment;Pollution
  • Compare key air emissions to gross domestic product, vehicle miles traveled, population, and energy consumption back to 1970;
  • Take a closer look at how the number of days with unhealthy air has dropped since 2000 in 35 major US cities; Emissions
  • Explore how air quality and emissions have changed through time and space for each of the common air pollutants; and
  • Check out air trends where you live.

Users will also be able to share this content across social media, with one-click access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other major social media sites.

The data shows that our nation’s air continues to improve. We may have come a long way from bell bottoms and leaded gasoline, but there is still much work left to be done to move us forward. EPA must continue work with our partners at the state, tribal, local and neighborhood levels to ensure healthy air for all communities. I encourage all of you to take a look and read about the progress made over the years.

Explore the new AirTrends website

Follow the agency’s new @EPAair twitter account

Outlook

About the Author: Arthur Zuco worked in conjunction with the Air Quality Analysis Group of the Office of Air Quality Planning Standards, which has led the effort to redesign both the AirTrends website and 2016 Air Trends Report. Experts from various disciplines contributed content and oversaw the development spanning over eleven months. Collectively, we are proud to bring the American people a compelling story about our improving air quality in an interactive and mobile-friendly tool. The employees who worked on the report, and this blog post, include Halil Cakir, Jan Cortelyou-Lee, Josh Drukenbrod, Aaron Evans, Brett Gaines, Brett Gantt, David Mintz, Liz Naess, Tesh Rao, Adam Reff, Kayla Schulte, Madeleine Strum, Ben Wells, and Arthur Zuco.

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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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Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans

Estuaries

By Nicole Tachiki

At a conference on climate change adaptation, I found myself eating lunch next to the Planning Administrator of a Maryland county. She told me that her office does not have budget or staff dedicated to thinking about the impacts of climate change, so she registered for the conference to learn how to incorporate climate adaptation into her work. Although her position as the county’s planning administrator does not include a sustainability portfolio, she recognized the need to consider climate change in county plans and wanted to learn more about it.

Climate change will have an impact on communities, particularly those that are already vulnerable to coastal storms, drought, and sea level rise. Like in the Southwest, drought will only exacerbate water shortages and increase the likelihood of future wildfires. Low-income communities that lack adequate resources to prepare and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change are especially at risk.  Workbook

Because of experiences like this, I am very proud of the work that has gone into EPA’s risk-based vulnerability assessment workbook entitled “Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans.” The workbook is a step-by-step guide to conducting a risk-based vulnerability assessment and then writing an adaptation action plan. Communities can follow the workbook steps to identify their potential climate change risks and how to consider adaptation options.

Leaders of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program decided to use the workbook to identify and prioritize climate change risks to the communities surrounding the estuary in Puerto Rico. One priority for these leaders was to engage and meaningfully involve the communities that would disproportionally be impacted by the potential risks to the estuary. They held community workshops to learn about the climate change impacts people in the community were already observing. Two of their workshops were specific to environmental justice communities living around the estuary.

You can listen to the “Climate Resilience: What to Expect, How to Prepare, and What You Can Learn from Others” webcast to learn more about how the workbook has been used in a pilot project with the San Juan Bay Estuary program.

To facilitate user experience with the climate change adaptation workbook, EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries program has just released a new online companion tool to the workbook.

This new online tool enables users to enter data for the first five steps of the workbook online. After working through the steps of the online tool, users receive a formatted matrix prioritizing their climate change risks and a final assessment report with all the user input.

As I sat by the planning administrator that day at the conference, I was further inspired to continue this work as I got to meet the people for whom these resources were developed.

And, as I continue to work on resources such as the workbook and online companion tool, I gain a greater appreciation for the work being done at EPA to help environmental leaders adapt to climate change. Communities are already dealing with the impacts of climate change and they need our support and resources to help them adapt.

About the Author: Nicole Tachiki is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow working with Climate Ready Estuaries and the National Estuary Program in the EPA’s Office of Water. In this capacity, she enjoys working to provide research and tools for climate change adaptation.

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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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Building equity, inclusiveness for low-income communities is key in climate resilience planning

About the Author: Shamar Bibbins is a program officer with the Environment Program at The Kresge Foundation. Her grant work supports efforts that help communities build resilience in the face of climate change.

Activities of PUSH Buffalo, one of the 15 grantees under Kresge's Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity initiative

Activities of PUSH Buffalo, one of Kresge’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity grantees

As a student organizer, I saw firsthand the lack of engagement with communities of color around key environmental issues. When I began working on climate change years later, I remained guided by a deep passion to ensure that people from historically underrepresented groups were included in efforts to advance climate solutions.

Low-income communities have, historically, been largely excluded from the benefits of robust investments in clean energy, green infrastructure, high-quality transit, and other climate-beneficial interventions. Climate policies have failed to address the magnitude of environmental, economic, and social vulnerabilities these communities face.

Activities of PUSH Buffalo, one of the 15 grantees under Kresge's Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity initiative

Activities of PUSH Buffalo, one of Kresge’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity grantees

I believe the only way we will come close to meeting our global climate challenges is by adopting the principles of environmental justice to develop targeted strategies that address the unique circumstances of these populations. In the absence of proactive efforts to address equity concerns in climate resilience planning, climate change will reinforce and worsen current socioeconomic disparities, diminishing opportunity for low-income and other disadvantaged populations.

Over the years, the Kresge Foundation has worked in conjunction with the EPA by matching funds so that communities receive the financial assistance needed to create healthier and more environmentally-friendly neighborhoods. We are proud to support the EPA’s environmental justice mission, which strives for all communities and persons across the nation to enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process that impacts their environment.

After 25 years of working on these types of collaborative governmental/non-governmental projects, I am honored to see how these types of partnerships truly do make a visible difference in communities. This is why I have been so excited to lead the Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative at the Kresge Foundation.

CRUO grantees together at The Kresge convention in Chicago

Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative Grantees gather in Chicago to talk about climate resilience in low-income communities

The initiative aims to ensure that the distinct needs and interests of low-income communities are addressed in climate adaption planning. Through the initiative, we support grantee organizations in more than one dozen U.S. cities who are working to establish local and regional climate policies that meet the priorities of low-income communities.

We recently awarded $660,000, three-year grants to 15 community-based organizations to work toward incorporating strong equity provisions into local and regional climate resilience policies and programs.

Makani Themba, Advisor to CRUO talks with Chris Marchi of Neighborhood of Affordable Housing at the convening in Chicago

Makani Themba, Advisor to The Kresge Foundation’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative talks with Chris Marchi of Neighborhood of Affordable Housing at a convening in Chicago

One of the goals of the Initiative is to systematically engage leaders and advocates who authentically represent the concerns of low-income communities and elevate their expertise on climate change. This engagement is designed to ensure that cities and municipalities adopt climate resilience plans that are more attendant to the priorities of people disproportionately harmed by climate-driven extreme events like flooding, heat waves and intense storms. These are people who have traditionally been left out of broader climate decision-making processes and we are striving to get them involved!

I am grateful to be part of a program that is building the field of climate resilience with a comprehensive, integrated approach that leads with equity. I truly believe that this new cadre of leaders who are both skilled at working in low-income communities and experts in climate resiliency will be an important step in addressing the urgent and complex environmental and climate challenges.

Activities from PUSH

Activities of PUSH Buffalo, one of Kresge’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity grantees

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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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.