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EPA Names “Environmental Justice” Communities

A local means to improving health from a newly activist EPA.

by on Nov.17, 2009

Helping highlight the disproportionate environmental burdens placed on low-income people.

Highlighting "disproportionate" burdens on low-income people.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced today a national initiative to “address environmental justice challenges” in ten communities through its  Environmental Justice Showcase Communities program.

EPA has committed $1 million of your tax dollars to this effort during the next two years.

“These 10 communities will serve as models for the EPA’s committed environmental justice efforts, and help highlight the disproportionate environmental burdens placed on low-income and minority communities all across the nation,” said Lisa P. Jackson, EPA Administrator.

“By expanding the conversation on environmentalism, we can give a voice to vulnerable groups that haven’t always had a voice on these issues,” said Jackson.

Since 1994, EPA has provided more than $32 million in general funding to more than 1,100 community-based organizations.

EPA says that the selected communities will use “collaborative, community-based approaches to improve public health and the environment.”

EPA will provide $100,000 per project. These demonstration projects will test and share information on different approaches to increase EPA’s ability to achieve environmental results in communities.

The following locations will serve as Environmental Justice Showcase Communities:

  • Bridgeport, Connecticut: EPA will build on work that has already taken place to develop community capacity and engagement, identify a broad network of partnerships, and connect with the goals of the city government. Using this past work as a foundation, EPA plans to work collaboratively with a wide-range of stakeholders to develop projects focused on improving indoor air quality, increasing community capacity for green jobs, increasing recycling rates, and reducing asthma and toxics exposure.
  • Staten Island, New York: EPA will work with the North Shore of Staten Island, a former industrial community that now contains many abandoned, contaminated, and regulated properties along the waterfront. This neighborhood has seen an increase in the number of kids with elevated lead levels in their blood. EPA, in consultation with key community members and state and local health agencies will develop a community-based health strategy for the area.
  • Washington, D.C.: EPA is building on its environmental justice work with a variety of partners, such as the District Department of Environment; the District Department of Health; and, local recipients of Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving and Environmental Justice Small Grant awards.
  • Jacksonville, Florida: EPA will focus on improving environmental and public health outcomes in an area that consists of a predominantly low income and minority population. This area has a number of Superfund sites, “brown fields,” vacant and abandoned lots or other properties where contamination is suspected, and affected waterways. EPA will work with its partners, including environmental justice community representatives, to address sites of concern and turn them into an opportunity for residents to collaborate with developers and revitalize their neighborhoods.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: EPA will work to further the redevelopment of the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. The corridor, a former rail line in the north-central part of the city, is home to low income communities of color. This project seeks to improve the human, environmental and economic health of these neighborhoods by redeveloping “brown fields” along the corridor, implementing environmentally preferable storm water management, and developing urban agriculture.
  • Port Arthur, Texas: EPA proposes a comprehensive, cross-media pilot project in Port Arthur, Texas, a racially and ethnically diverse population along the Gulf Coast of southeast Texas. This community was severely impacted because of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike. Through the EJ Showcase Project, EPA will work with partners to strategically target additional work and supplement ongoing efforts.
  • Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas: EPA has identified 11 neighborhoods in the metropolitan area that have many risk factors including poor housing conditions and increased exposure to environmental hazards. EPA will conduct an assessment to identify specific sources of pollution and will work with neighborhood leaders to prioritize community concerns. Strategies to address these concerns will be developed through these partnerships.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah: EPA has chosen six neighborhoods in central and west Salt Lake City as the focus of a Children’s Environmental Health and Environmental Justice initiative. The areas include Glendale, Jordan Meadows, Poplar Grove, Rose Park, State Fairpark and Westpointe. EPA selected the areas based on the presence of several environmental risk factors and the community’s support and past participation in addressing environmental issues. The multi-agency initiative will seek to identify and reduce children’s exposure to contaminants from multiple pathways. The state of Utah has developed a tracking system that will provide baseline health and environmental data and help the partnership achieve results.
  • Los Angeles Area Environmental Enforcement Collaborative, California: The densely populated communities closest to the I-710 freeway in Los Angeles County are severely impacted by pollution from goods movement and industrial activity. In a multi-year effort, a unique collaboration of federal, state and local governments and community organizations will work together to improve the environmental and public health conditions for residents along this corridor. Partners will identify pollution sources of concern to the community, review agency data sources and develop action plans. One goal is to improve compliance with environmental laws by targeting inspections and enforcement at the state, federal, and local levels to address community concerns.
  • Yakima, Washington: EPA will address multiple environmental home health issues in the Latino and tribal communities in the Yakima Valley. A coordinated effort between state, local, and non-profit partners will be used to address the range of exposures found in the community, with a primary focus on reducing exposure through contaminated private well drinking water. This will be accomplished by assessing homes with contaminated wells, providing “treatment at the tap” mitigation, and reducing pollution sources through available regulatory tools and best management practices.

Lisa Jackson was nominated by President Obama in December 2008 and sworn in on January 26, 2009. She is the first African American to head the EPA.

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