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.

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