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Op-Ed
 

Sierra Club Applauds Introduction of "Environmental Justice Renewal Act"

Statement of Leslie Fields, Sierra Club National Environmental Justice Director

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By: Sierra Club

"Sierra Club applauds Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA) for introducing the Environmental Justice Renewal Act on Wednesday. People of color and low-income populations are still disproportionately impacted by pollution, and this landmark legislation has the potential to ensure safe and healthy communities for everyone.

"The Environmental Justice Renewal Act, if properly enforced, will codify the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, giving it measurable duties and tasks to advance environmental justice throughout the government.

"As we join members of Congress in fighting the discriminatory siting of toxic facilities, we also highlight the benefits of a clean energy economy, one that produces less toxic waste and causes less air and water pollution. Just as we all have a stake in a clean energy economy, so too do we all have a responsibility to make sure all people benefit from that economy. We applaud Senator Clinton and Congresswoman Solis for stepping up to protect low-income communities and people of color across the country from environmental injustice. And we urge all members of the House and Senate to support this landmark legislation."

Background on the need for Environmental Justice Legislation:

As the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries' Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty reported in 2007, people of color represent the majority of those living within three kilometers of this country's hazardous waste facilities. This is immoral and unjust, and strong legislation to address these disparities has been long overdue. In addition:

*A 2001 report of the National Academy of Public Administration performed for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on environmental justice in permitting programs found "environmental justice has not yet been integrated fully into the agency's core mission or its staff functions" and "EPA does not now have a routine process for identifying high-risk communities and giving them priority attention to prevent pollution and reduce existing public health hazards."

*The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 2002 study of and report on the implementation of Executive Order 12898 found that federal agencies (including EPA) have failed to incorporate environmental justice into their core missions and that federal agencies (including EPA) have not established accountability and performance outcomes for environmental justice in their programs and activities.

*The 2004 EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report concluded that EPA "has not fully implemented Executive Order 12898 nor consistently integrated environmental justice into its day-to-day operations. EPA has not identified minority and low-income [populations] . . . and has neither defined nor developed criteria for determining [who is] disproportionately impacted."

*The 2006 EPA OIG report concluded that "EPA senior management has not sufficiently directed program and regional offices to conduct environment justice reviews in accordance with Executive Order 12898."

The Sierra Club supports low-income communities and people of color in their struggles for clean and healthy environments. When invited into a community, the Sierra Club Environmental Justice program provides grassroots organizing assistance, following the lead of the community members as they define the agenda and build self-reliance. Current environmental justice program sites include El Paso (Tex.), Minneapolis; Central Appalachia; Detroit; Flagstaff (Ariz.); Anacostia (DC); Memphis and New Orleans. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org/EJ

 

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