Saturday, December 30, 2006

Environmental Justice For Jamaica Bay in New York

New York environmentalist Samara Swanston, left, wants the world to know that there is no access to Jamaica Bay in the predominantly black neighborhoods of southeastern Queens. For the last decade she has been working tirelessly on this environmental justice issue. She was recently quoted in the Times Ledger, "We have no access to the greatest resource in Jamaica. Many of our children have never been to Jamaica Bay." Swanston wants children in Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and other neighborhoods to have access to trails along the bay's waterfront. She also wants to build a boat launch that would give kayakers access to the bay. Swanston estimated that she has brought about 1,000 students to the bay since 1997.

Million Woman March 10 Year Anniversary

The largest gathering of women in the world will take place October 2007. Leading up to the MWM Reunion mass gathering are several very important movement building events and Summits. The Million Woman March Action Summit will be held in April 2007 (DC) and The MWM African Women's Leadership Summit in October 2007 (Phila).

There will be a panel discussion that will address issues relevant to the urban environment as well as the universal/world reality. The panel is intented to help educate, inform, prepare, encourage and train women of African descent to become more involved and visible in the environmental protection and awareness movement.

Inspector General's Report on Environmental Justice Implementation

In 2004 the OIG issued a report on the implementation of environmental justice Presidential Executive Order 12898. EPA's response is included in Appendix D of the report and an excerpt is included below:

"The Agency does not accept the Inspector General's central and baseline assumption that environmental justice only applies to minority and/or low-income individuals. The EPA firmly believes that environmental justice belongs to all people, including those living in minority and/or low-income populations. All Americans, including minority and/or low-income residents, have a right to clean air, clean land, and clean water, and to have a meaningful say in the environmental decisions that affect them. These are basic rights that belong to all people, regardless of race
or income."

Friday, December 29, 2006

Congressman James Clyburn: Environemtal Justice Crusader

Congressman James Clyburn tirelessly promotes environmental justice year after year. He issues and annual Environmental Justice Report during the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference at the Environmental Justice Braintrust. The reports, authored by the National Environmental Policy Commission, usually includes some of the the following recomendations:

* Congress should launch a specific initiative to eliminate disparities in health care and health outcomes according to race and income.
* Congress should leverage the resources newly being devoted to Homeland Security to provide improved health information and services to communities of concern.
* Congress should pursue avenues for federal, state, loacl and tribal governments to work together to expand the safety net of environmental control to all sources of pollution.
* Congress, EPA and other federal agencies must find better mechanisms to involve communities in environmental decision making at all levels.
* Congress should exercise its oversight and funding authorities to fully and accurately characterize and control the ipacts of transportation projects on health and environment.
* Congress should create clear guidelines to correct federally owned facilities' failure to involve surrounding communities in their evaluation of environmental impacts and failure to make timely progress on remedial obligations
* Congress, EPA and other federal agencies should facilitate consideration of workable mechanisms to incorporate Environmental Justice into land-use planning.
* Congress should highlight and support government and private sector gains in workplace diversity and inclusion.
* Congress should act to assure that transportation and economic development projects do not impair sacred sites.
* Congress should address the need for resources to support environmental infrastructure on tribal lands.
* Congress should address the need for environmental infrastructure in the U.S. territories.
* Congress should expand the collaborative model of the Interagency Working Group to new demonstration projects and additional governmental programs.
* Congress should provide suppot for community-based, faith-based, and tribal organizations that have initiated important projects to protect community health, provide environmental and health information, and facilitate community revitalization.

Congressman Clyburn initiated the National Environmental Policy Commission in response to recommendations by the CBCF Environmental Justice Braintrust that he chairs

Environmental Justice Narcissism: A Luxury We Cannot Afford

The environmental justice movement does not have the luxury of indulging in elitism. We have to answer questions the mainstream environmental movement can ignore. Where is the environmental justice movement heading? Will it organize to provide a relevant presence before the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch? Will it compete in the private sector and encourage entrepreneurship? Will it litigate to protect vulnerable communities of color when needed? Can it renconcile environmental justice with economic justice? Can personal agendas and competition be subjugated for the benefit of the movement?

Traditional environmental organizations have embraced an elitism that keeps minorities out of their ranks. The EJ movement could also be distracted by elistist tendencies and delusions of grandeur. The traditional environmental movement is a $6 billion per year industry and they do not share it with minorities. Mainstream groups can afford their elitism, but the EJ Movement is poor, yet has commissioned itself to protect poor people and the most vulnerable communities. The challenge is great. Maybe the challenge is too great for the people and resources involved. It surely cannot be achieved by looking in the mirror. Although this conference will glance in the rear view mirror, it is also clearly focused on looking and moving forward.

Friday, December 22, 2006

EPA Solicits Nominations for 2007 Environmental Quality Awards

Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes and honors those individuals and organizations who contributed significantly to improving the environment during the past year in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands through its Environmental Quality Awards.

The awards recognize achievement in six categories:

1) Individual Citizen
2) Non-Profit Organization, Environmental or Community Group
3) Environmental Education
4) Business and Industry
5) Federal, State, Local or Tribal Government or Agency and
6) Press and Media. Nominations for the awards are solicited from both within and outside EPA.

Contact Information: Chris Sebastian (212) 637-3597

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Current Deficiencies in Environmental Health Protection

EPA does not have the authority to prevent the construction of a proposed polluting facility. EPA does not have the authority to approve the construction of a proposed nonpolluting facility. If subsequent to the issuance of an operating permit the EPA were to find a civil rights violation, the EPA would have no power to stop the operation or even to provide any other form of relief to the victimized community.

EPA's only remedy against an environmental civil rights violating state is to attempt to cut off financial assistance to the violating state. EPA has never requested a cut-off of financial assistance to a state for such a violation. Moreover, the cut off of such funds can only occur if the U.S. Congress does not object. Courts have ruled that victims of environmental racial discrimination have no standing to privately enforce federal agency civil rights regulations. A community may file a civil rights complaint with the EPA only after a state has already issued a permit to operate the facility being opposed.

Of the 130 environmental justice complaints filed by minority communities across the nation between 1992 and 2002, only four (4) have been fully investigated and EPA has ruled against all of those complainants. And even if EPA ruled in favor of such complainants for an environmental civil rights violation, the agency would be powerless to provide any relief to the complaining community.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Black Chamber Advertises Opportunities in Louisiana

Bechtel Construction has directly approached the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) for help in locating qualified subcontractors in Louisiana and particularly New Orleans. Any qualified businesses should contact the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce for referral to Bechtel. Email Arnold Baker as soon as possible at

They are looking for businesses with the following expertise: 1. General Site Development such as civil earth work, grading, excavation, survey, road installation and fencing. 2. Concrete and Asphalt placement. 3. Utility installation such as water, sewer and electric. 4. Haul and install temporary housing units such as travel trailers and manufactured housing.

NBCC 15th Annual Conference July 25 - 28, 2007 - New Orleans

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

EPA Reduces Paperwork on Small Businesses

Are there environmental justice implications to the EPA reduction in paperwork for small businesses? The EPA has responded to small businesses and taken a step toward reducing their paperwork burden by reforming the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) rule. EPA believes the reform will help America's small businesses - especially manufacturers - remain competitive while still informing communities of the use of toxic materials by local firms.

According to EPA, while small firms are this country's prime innovators and job creators,the smallest annually spend 45 percent more per employee to comply with federal regulations than their larger counterparts. Per employee compliance with environmental regulations costs small firms 364 percentmore than large firms. For more information: (202) 205-6533

Conference Goals

The conference is expected to meet the following goals:

1) Provide a free exchange of ideas and experiences, seeking what has successfully provided workable solutions for a community, town, organization or other entity.

2) Allow for a discussion of how these workable solutions may provide preferred outcomes for communities, towns, organizations and other entities struggling to resolve a particular issue.

3) Facilitate new partnerships and collaborations that may provide resources leading to workable solutions for communities, towns organizations and other entities struggling to solve a particular issue.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Current EJ Program Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

Current environmental justice programs under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, existing civil rights laws, regulations and former President Clinton's Executive Order On Environmental Justice do not provide any relief for victims of environmental injustice.
The criteria for defining environmental racism are so different in nature from the criteria used to define individualized racial discrimination that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not really applicable for resolving environmental racism problems.

Current provisions:

1) Victims of civil rights discrimination may file a complaint with the EPA. (40 C.F.R. 7.120)
2) The EPA will accept environmental civil rights complaints but only after a State has granted an operating permit.
3) The EPA does not investigate whether State departments of environment are complying with its civil rights obligation. (40 C.F.R. 7.80)
4) The EPA cannot provide any effective relief to a civil rights complainant under its own regulations.
5) The sole relief available for victims of environmental civil rights violations is through a private action against a state if the community can prove intentional discrimination. To date, no such action has been successful. [Examples]

Moving: Is It a Viable Environmental Justice Option

If you live in a community where your health and the health of your children are threatened by dangerous pollution, should you simply move? Even if you are not 'bought out' by the company or companies producing the effluent or emissions, should you move? If there is evidence that many people in your community are sick with and have died from cancer and other debilitating diseases, should you move? If you have exhausted every option, including protesting, litigation, dialogue, and personal appeals for mitigation, should you move?

When racism was truly rampant in the first half of the 20th Century, Blacks packed up everything they owned, or left everything they owned, and moved. Racism was so toxic in the South that Blacks moved away from it. During the Great Migration, millions of Blacks moved from the fields to Northern urban centers. In an ironic modern twist of fate, now many of those urban centers have become extremely toxic to the health of Blacks, particulary young Black males. The question remains, in the face of signifcant toxic threats: Do you stay or do you go?

Saturday, December 16, 2006


If there are any businesses whose financial or other form of participation would prove offensive to anyone, speak now, or forever hold your peace.

Send your thoughts and comments to:

Friday, December 15, 2006

Message from the Conference Coordinator

Serving as the Conference Coordinator is a wonderful experience. Working with such a diverse and spirited group is a joy to experience at least once in a lifetime. Thank all of you for your comments and contributions to this important conference. I wish each of you, your families, friends, neighbors and loved ones a happy and joyous holiday season, and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. For the next three months, we get busy.

Next Update: January 12, 2007.

John Rosenthall
Conference Coordinator

Conference Update – December 11, 2006

Conference Internet: The Conference Blog is up and running. The EJ Blog and the DOE-EJ web site will be our primary modes of communication henceforth. Please visit

Public Relation and Outreach: The committee is working in conjunction with DOE to produce the conference web site, information brochure, outreach plan and exhibit area at conference.

Plenary Sessions: The conference will have five plenary sessions. They are the grand opening plenary on Thursday evening, an opening plenary on Friday morning, a joint session after lunch on Friday, a community forum on Friday evening and a closing plenary Saturday afternoon. This committee is accepting recommendations and speaker suggestions. Please send your recommendations and suggestions for any of the plenary sessions to

Conference Registration: Conference registration opens on January 1, 2007.

Travel Scholarship: Conference travel assistance is contingent on the amount of funds we can raise for that effort. Guidelines for travel will be posted on January 1, 2007. Applications for travel assistance will be accepted between January 1, 2007 and January 31, 2007. Those granted travel assistance will be notified by February 28, 2007.

John Rosenthall, Conference Coordinator

Monday, December 11, 2006

In Remembrance of Damu Smith and Dana Alston

The environmental justice movement will never be the same without Damu Smith, left, and Dana Alston, right. These two powerful activists spoke truth to power and worked tirelessly for social and environmental justice. Dana was 47 years old when she died in 1999. Damu was 54 years old when he died in 2006.

Damu Smith knew everybody in the environmental justice movement and everybody in the movement knew and admired Damu. Damu loved to speak and was a great speaker. He loved helping low-income and other disadvantaged people. Damu fought for years to protect people in Cancer Alley in Louisiana from additional pollution. He founded and ran Black Voices for Peace and the National Black Environmental Justice Network. Damu Smith died on May 5, 2006 of colon cancer. His beloved daughter, Asha Moore Smith, lives in Washington, DC.

Dana Alston received a Bannerman Fellowship in 1992 in recognition of her leadership in the development of the environmental justice movement. The Bannerman Fellowship Program was founded in 1987 on the belief that the most effective approach to achieving progressive social change is by organizing low-income people at the grassroots level. In 2002, the Fellowship Program was renamed the Alston/Bannerman Fellowship Program in honor of Dana Alston. Dana died on August 7, 1999 at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Dana was a native of New York and lived in Washington, D.C. She was in San Francisco for treatment of kidney disease and consequences of a stroke when she died. Her beloved son, Khalil Alston-Cobb, resides in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Who Owns Environmental Justice?

Many people all over America and throughout the world work on environmental justice issues. Does the environmental justice movement (very quiet lately at the national level) seek to mimic the traditional, mainstream environmental movement's claim to ownership of environmental issues and stake out a claim on total ownership of environmental injustice issues? If so, is this a good thing or a bad move? Some have postulated that "environmentalism is dead." That is not true but the mainstream environmental movement seems to be stuck in the mud of the 20th Century and is one of the most segregated sectors in American society.

So who owns the environmental justice movement? Does anyone own environmental justice? Is there a president? A dictator? A committee? An oligarchy? A board? Divinely anointed? What is the role of the federal government? What about state and local governments? The mainstream environmental movement has the Green Group and periodically 'The Group of 10 or 12 or whatever.' Are such designations needed? Are they efficient? Are they effective? Is something better than nothing? Is a structure needed or can individuals and groups simply implement meetings and activities as best they can? Is a League of Environmental Justice Voters needed? It is probably some of all of the above. The conference will surely examine some of these questions.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Genetics & Environmental Justice: Pulbic Education Needed

The Genetics Equity Network (GEN), the University of Michigan and Howard University partnered for a workshop on Oct 5, 2006 entitled: "Achieving Equity in Genetics Policy through Diversity in Decision Making." The current lack of genetic literacy in the public makes true informed consent and public acceptance for this type of research a major issue. The workshop addressed concerns about discrimination, race-based medicine, and insecurity about how that information will be used. Anti-discrimination laws at the state level will not protect most of the public because most Americans are insured through group policies that are under federal jurisdiction. (more)

GEN recently received draft legislation (summary) from the Office of Senator Kennedy, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee regarding laboratory tests, including genetic tests. There is little to no regulation in this area by the FDA. The current proposal seeks to assure that tests are clinically and analytically valid. The Genetics Equity Network has been invited to provide comments. The bill will be introduced early in the 110th Congress.

Jody Platt Garcia, Assistant Director, Univ of Michigan School of Public Health Life Sciences & Society Program, 611 Church St, Rm 250, Ann Arbor, Mich 48104-3028 Telephone: (734) 647-4571, E-mail: Website:

Canada Conference on Race Research: Call for Papers

Call for Papers by the Department of Sociology, Georgia State University and Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. New Directions in Race Research Social Forces seeks papers for a special section on race research planned for the December 2007 issue. They are soliciting original papers that address issues of race, racial inequality, racism and racial identity construction from U.S. and international perspectives. Papers might address new developments in racial inequality in housing, education or health; the creation, maintenance and changing definition of racial categories; the racial dynamics of colorblindness; andracism within the context of immigration, neo-colonialism and theenvironment. They welcome papers that expand our theoretical understanding of race and are particularly interested in empirical research that challenges, expands or redirects existing race scholarship.

The special section will be edited by Charles A. Gallagher, Departmentof Sociology, Georgia State University. Papers will be peer reviewed. The deadline for submitting papers is April 2, 2007. Manuscripts should be limited to 5,000-9,000 words including references and endnotes and should be e-mailed as a Microsoft Word attachment to . Any tables or figures must be editable inMicrosoft Word or Excel. Do not use any automatic formatting feature. Submission fees for this section are waived.

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health promotes health through partnerships between communities and higher educational institutions. CCPH will hold their 10th Anniversary Conference, April 11-14, 2007 inToronto Mobilizing Partnerships for Social Change.

Dept of Energy & Dept of Agriculture Lead Fed on EJ

The U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Energy have taken on a leadership role for environmental stewardship among federal agencies by serving as sponsors of a national environmental justice conference. The State of Environmental Justice in America conference is scheduled for March 29-31, 2007. This effort will team with communities, scholars, researchers, government, the private sector, and others to issue a comprehensive report and conduct a conference on March 29-31, 2007.

Cosponsored with Howard University and the National Small Town Alliance, the conference will evaluate the current status of the environmental justice movement and will consider strategies for mitigating environmental injustice in the future. Conferees will address:

  • What do we mean by Environmental Justice in the 21st Century?
  • Have we made progress? What remains to be done?

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Ben Goldman Coauthored "Toxic Wastes & Race" 20 Years Ago

Unheralded in the environmental justice movement, Dr. Benjamin Goldman, right, coauthored this historic document two decades ago with Charles Lee. Other coauthors included: EJBlog Note: The authors of the original report include: Shelley D. Hayes, Esq, Larry J. DeNeal, Ph.D. M.P.H., Iris W. Lee, M.P.H., Vernice Miller, and Judy F. Richardson, William B. Oliver.

In addition to his work as an artist, Ben Goldman has had an extensive and wide-ranging career as an activist, public policy expert, author, and entrepreneur. His doctorate is in public administration, and his work has led to a landmark First Amendment judicial decision (Federal Election Commission v. Political Contributions Data Inc., 943 F.2d 190, 2d Cir. 1991), a Presidential Executive Order (No. 12898 in 1994).

He has organized communities and interest groups across America for more than two decades in roles including grassroots leader, political candidate, professor, co-founder and director of several national and local organizations, and consultant to dozens of governmental, non-profit, and for-profit establishments. Since turning full-time to making art, his advocacy work has focused on building arts organizations and helping communities where he lives and works

State of Environmental Justice in America Conference

The National Small Town Alliance, the Howard University School of Law, the United States Departments of Energy and Agriculture are teaming with others to review the environmental justice movement and to determine the State of Environmental Justice in America: What do we mean by Environmental Justice in the 21st Century? Have we made progress? What remains to be done? This effort will team with communities, scholars, researchers, government the private sector, and others to issue a comprehensive report and conduct a conference on March 29-31, 2007.

For additional information, please contact Michelle Hudson at For sponsorship opportunities or conference suggestions, please contact John Rosenthall at 703-624-2257 or (Call for Papers)