EPA Struggles to Deliver Environmental Justice
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
SEATTLE - The Environmental Protection Agency rarely investigates complaints from minority communities that allege local environmental regulations are discriminatory.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, only one of seven cases in Washington state has been accepted for investigation since 1996.
Sarah Tory, who wrote a recent article for High Country News about the EPA's failure to enforce the Civil Rights Act, says there's a disconnect between the agency's civil rights office and its regulatory wing.
"It seems to be the case that the EPA is chiefly concerned with making sure industries, power plants, et cetera, are complying with the laws," says Tory. "And if they are, the EPA is reticent to then turn around and say, 'Actually while you may be in compliance with our regulations, you're violating the Civil Rights Act.'"
Since the EPA established its Office for Civil Rights in the early 1990s, it has received more than 300 complaints, yet never made a formal finding of environmental discrimination.
The Center for Public Integrity says it takes the agency 350 days on average to decide whether to investigate a case.
Tory says in one case, the pesticide methyl bromide was being used near a California high school.
In 1999, seven parents filed a complaint with the EPA against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Twelve years later, the agency released preliminary findings of discrimination, for the first time ever and in response, set up one air-quality monitor near the school.
Tory says by then, another pesticide was in much wider use.
"During the time the EPA took to investigate the impacts of methyl bromide, the pesticide had been phased out, and it had been replaced by a new pesticide called methyl iodide," she says. "Methyl iodide is also linked to numerous health problems, and the EPA knew this but didn't account for it in their investigation."
The EPA has released a draft action plan called EJ 2020 to ensure the agency can better respond to allegations of environmental discrimination in the future.
EJ 2020 is open to public comment through July 7.
get more stories like this via email
The youngest North Carolina voters could end up shifting the political landscape of the state in the not-too-distant future. New data from the …
Protests have heightened in New York as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins the United Nations General Assembly today. Sonya Meyerson-…
Many across the state of Nevada will celebrate National Public Lands Day tomorrow. Nevadans will be able to visit state parks for free on Saturday…
Across Utah, 10 cities will be using ranked choice voting in the general election in November. In 2018, Utah passed a bill to establish a pilot …
While North Dakota does not have voter registration, civic engagement groups say efforts are still needed to help underserved populations get …
Health and Wellness
Open enrollment begins soon for employer-sponsored health insurance for coverage starting Jan 1. Most people will have multiple options to choose …
Health and Wellness
Health care advocates are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign four bills aiming to lower medical bills, improve transparency, and make health care more …
Rural advocates are supporting the Farmland for Farmers Act in Congress. It would restrict the amount of Iowa farmland large corporations can own…