REGION IV ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
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Research on environmental justice has blossomed since the publication of 1987 Commission for Racial Justice Toxic Waste and Race. In the real world, all communities are not created equal. Findings in the 1990 book Dumping in Dixie revealed that African Americans in the South are more likely than whites to live near municipal solid waste landfills and incinerators, hazardous waste disposal facilities, lead smelters, and petrochemical plants. The South, including EPA Region IV, poses a special environmental justice case resulting from its historical legacy of legalized discrimination against African Americans. It is not by accident that both the modern civil rights movement and environmental justice movement grew out of protests in the South. The national environmental justice movement emerged in 1983 from protests over the 1983 siting of a PCB hazardous waste landfill in rural predominately African American Warren County, North Carolina.
The legacy of "Jim Crow" segregation, unequal access to information, differential political power arrangements, exclusionary practices, and old-fashion racial discrimination still limit the participation of many African Americans in environmental decision making. Institutionalized discrimination was buttressed by government policies and industry practices. By default, African American and poor communities become the "dumping grounds." It is from these experiences that the deep mistrust of government was forged and lingers to this day.
Having environmental and other laws on the books has not guaranteed equal enforcement for all communities. A 1992 National Law Journal study uncovered glaring racial inequities in the way the U.S. EPA enforces its Superfund laws. White communities see faster action, better results and stiffer penalties than communities where African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color live. Environmental justice groups succeeded in getting the President of the United States to act on the national problem of environmental injustice. On February 11, 1994, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, "Federal Action to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations." This Executive Order reinforces existing environmental laws and serves as a reminder that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discriminatory practices in programs receiving federal financial assistance.
Residents who live near Superfund and hazardous waste sites understand too well that the EPA can not solve all of the environmental problems in their communities alone. It will take a team approach in leveling the playing field. Residents impacted by hazardous waste, working with grassroots leaders, community based organizations and institutions, and government can form partnerships to begin addressing environmental problems in a more holistic and equitable way.
Robert D. Bullard
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There are many individuals and groups who are responsible for making this Partnership Project and report possible. First, I would like to extend thanks to Tim Fields of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, John Hankinson(EPA Region IV Administrator), Dick Green(Interim Director Waste Management Division), Jewell Harper(Deputy Director, Waste Management Division) and Margaret Meares Crowe (Project Officer, Waste Management Division) from EPA Region IV. The Community Relation Coordinators, Dorothy Rayfield, Cynthia Peurifoy, Rose Jackson, John Zimmerman, Olga Perry and Tikki Whitfield were especially helpful in providing us with community contact lists.
Special thanks go to the community based organizations and their leaders who assisted us in building our Region IV environmental justice groups database, planning workshops, town hall meetings, and environmental justice lectures series. They include Connie Tucker, Sherril Marcus, and the Southern Organizing Committee for Social and Economic Justice (Atlanta, GA); Zack Lyde and Save the People, Allen Booker and the Youth Initiative Project, Daniel Parshley, Gary Drury and the Glynn Environmental Coalition (Brunswick, GA); Arthur Pickney and the Grassroots Coalition of Greater Charleston and the Chicora-Cherokee Community (Charleston, SC); Leola McCoy and the Bass Dillard Neighborhood Issues and Prevention Inc. (Fort Lauderdale, FL); Cassandra Roberts and the Sweet Valley/Cobb Town Environmental Task Force, Dr. Suzanne Marshall from Serving Alabama Future Environment (Anniston, AL).
Finally, the individuals staff members from the Environmental Justice Resource Center who contributed to this report include Robert D. Bullard, director, Glenn S. Johnson, Research Associate; Angel Torres, GIS Specialist; Tracey Ani, Administrative Assistant; Christopher Weldon and Chad Johnson, Graduate Research Assistants.
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The environmental justice movement has come a long way since its birth in the early 1980's in rural and mostly African American Warren County, North Carolina. The selection of Warren County for a PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) landfill sparked widespread protests, marches, and over 500 arrests. Although the protesters were unsuccessful in blocking the PCB landfill, they brought national attention to waste facility siting inequities and galvanized African American church and civil rights leaders' support for environmental justice. The demonstrations also put "environmental racism" on the map and challenged the myth that African Americans are not concerned about hazardous dumping in their communities.
Grassroots groups, after decades of struggle, have grown to become the core of the multi-issue, multiracial, and multi-regional environmental justice movement. Diverse community-based groups have begun to organize and link their struggles to issues of civil and human rights, land rights and sovereignty, cultural survival, racial and social justice, and sustainable development.
Government has been slow to address equity questions of who gets help and who does not, who can afford help and who can not, why some contaminated communities get cleaned up or studied while others get left off the research agenda, why industry contaminates some communities and not others, why some contaminated communities are studies while others are not, why some communities are protected and others are not protected, and why unfair policies and practices are allowed to go unpunished.
In the real world, environmental decision-making operates at the juncture of science, economics, politics, and ethics. Low-income and communities of color are at special risk from environmental problems, including hazardous waste. It has been an uphill battle convincing some government and industry officials and some environmentalists that unequal protection, disparate impact, and environmental racism exist. Nevertheless, grassroots activists have continued to argue their case.
Grassroots leaders are positioning themselves to become "partners" (not silent or junior partners, but full partners) with government decision makers on issues that affect the health of their communities. The environmental justice movement has made a difference in the lives of people and the physical environment. Working together, community stakeholders can assist public decision makers in identifying "at risk" populations, toxic "hot spots," research gaps, and action models to correct existing imbalances and prevent future threats.
In order to accomplish its mission in an era of dwindling resources, environmental policy makers are increasingly turning to strategies that incorporate a community-empowerment approach. Residents are concerned about the health and welfare of their communities and the possible threats from environmental contaminations and pollution. Strengthening grassroots community groups can build a supportive social environment for environmental decision making. Residents and government authorities (local, state, and federal) often working together through creative partnerships with grassroots community groups, universities, nonprofit agencies, and other institutions can begin solving environmental and health problems and design strategies to prevent future problems in low-income and communities of color.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other governmental agencies can not resolve all environmental problems alone. Communities also need to be in the position to assist in their own struggle for safe, healthy, livable, and sustainable communities. Through community-university partnerships and similar community-driven collaboratives, residents are beginning to set goals and move toward their realization.
This report describes an environmental justice partnership project that was initiated in EPA Region IV. The report is divided into six major sections. Part I begins by defining environmental justice and the environmental justice framework, background and historical roots of this relatively new movement, the impact of environmental problems on at-risk populations, government response to the problem, and objectives of the partnership project.
Part II of this report explains the importance of community outreach and communication in designing effective partnerships. Given the right circumstances, community stakeholders can become powerful resources in addressing local environmental problems. To be effective, public involvement must be real and built into every step of the decision making process. The section outlines some of the major guiding public participation principles and strategies for reaching culturally diverse stakeholders. Because there is no single best approach for involving diverse stakeholders and public interest groups, a multifaceted approach is offered to reach specific target audiences.
The report then presents Part III, activities the Partnership Project has undertaken in efforts to meet its goals and objectives. Highlights, accomplishments, and milestones of the Environmental Justice Resource Center are outlined in this section. Some of these activities include national and regional conferences, town hall meetings, lecture series, community needs assessment, expanded environmental justice groups database, web page, and environmental justice resource materials (.i.e., annotated bibliography, videos directory, curriculum resource guide, and community forum video).
Part IV provides an analysis of four case study communities near Superfund sites. The four communities include Anniston, Alabama, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Charleston, South Carolina, and Brunswick, Georgia. In addition to the Superfund site background, the case studies include uses of Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis to display maps and tables of the demographic profiles of the communities and other polluting facilities in or near the impacted population.
Part V explores the lessons learned from the environmental justice community training workshops and feedback from community and other stakeholders. Specific recommendations were derived from the evaluations, observations, and feedback from the various workshop participants. Workshops were tailored to the specific needs and requirements of the community. This section outlines some of the general concerns and crosscutting issues expressed by the workshop participants and lessons learned about community-driven outreach. Site-specific recommendations from the individual community workshops, as well as overall workshop evaluations and community feedback.
The report s conclusions are presented in Part VI. Low-income and people of color communities have not always shared in the benefits that accrue to hosting locally unwanted land uses and polluting facilities. Similarly, limited resources have place many residents in polluted neighborhoods at a disadvantage. Partnerships can make a difference. Effective partnerships take on heightened importance as decisions are made and resources allocated under Superfund cleanup and restoration.
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