WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requesting public
input on a precedent-setting effort to evaluate environmental justice
concerns raised by a Bush-era loophole that stripped federal oversight
of companies that handle 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste each year.
The waste is generated by steel, chemical and pharmaceutical
companies and mostly affects low-income communities and communities of
color where waste dumps are often situated.
EPA will discuss the preliminary plan
for the environmental justice analysis with the National Environmental
Justice Advisory Council at the council's national public meeting on
Jan. 28 in New Orleans.
"This is the first time the agency will conduct a comprehensive
environmental justice analysis -- although these reviews were first
ordered by President Bill Clinton," said Abigail Dillen, an attorney
for Earthjustice. "This process is likely to become a template for
future analyses. We look forward to participating in this process and
are pleased the EPA is involving important stakeholders and advocates
for environmental justice."
Even though the EPA is reconsidering
the Bush era rule change, it remains in effect in the interim and three
states are already making use of it. According to an analysis by
Earthjustice that will be presented in New Orleans, 23 facilities in
Iowa, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are already operating under the
exemption. A basic investigation of the facilities shows that at least
six of them are chronic violators and 19 are in communities that are
predominantly low-income or minority.
"Disadvantaged communities face an increased risk from exposure to
this hazardous waste," said Dr. Robert Bullard, director of the
Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University.
"Involving representatives of this community in the process is needed
to create an unbiased plan that assesses the impact of this loophole on
"It is imperative that those who stand to be most directly affected
by the operations of these hazardous waste recycling businesses are
involved in analyzing and commenting on this draft policy," said
Vernice Miller-Travis, vice chair of the Maryland Commission on
Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities. "A fundamental tenet
of environmental justice is that these communities speak for themselves
and voice their concerns directly to the federal government. This
upcoming public dialogue is their opportunity to be heard."
Individuals unable to attend this dialogue in person in New Orleans
on January 28th, may comment on the record via e-mail. Submit written
comments to RCRAfirstname.lastname@example.org,
Attn: Docket ID EPA-HQ-RCRA-2009-0315. Interested stakeholders can also
attend a second public meeting on the proposed environmental justice
plan to be held on February 23, 2010 at the EPA Potomac Yard Conference
Center in Arlington, VA.