Saturday, January 27, 2007

President Bush and Environmental Justice

The Bush administration has stepped up to address environmental justice in 2007. The U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture are cosponsoring The State of Environmental Justice in America Conference 2007 with Howard University and the National Small Town Alliance. Other federal agencies and NGOs are in the process of becoming sponsors. This public/private dialogue will hopefully lead to improved protection for vulnerable communities.

Bush administration officials like to point out how reductions in pollutants, such as benzene and mercury, help vulnerable communities most because they are disproportionately impacted. Activists want programs and dollars targeted directly to vulnerable communities, polluters closed down and communites compensated or relocated. Partisan politics can also obscure opportunities and pitfalls for environmental justice. For instance, the traditional environmental comunity does not recognize any environmental achievements by the Bush administration. Actually there are many. Neither public institutions nor the EJ Movement should operate with blinders on. Merit should be based on policies and practices.

The recent Capitol Hill panel discussion hosted by Congressman Alcee Hastings illustrated some disagreements about some policies regarding the scope of environmental justice. An inspector general report also described some shortcomings regarding Executive Order 12898 compliance. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a statement on environmental justice that generated some controversy. The EJ 2007 Conference provides an excellent opportunity to exchange views about these and other issues.

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