Congressional Democrats, who are working to tighten federal environmental justice (EJ) and civil rights policies, are facing growing pressure from grassroots groups to strengthen legislative proposals that activists say do not go far enough to protect low-income and minority communities from pollution.
Some grassroots sources are arguing that a draft bill prepared by House Democrats requiring EPA to “devote attention” to EJ concerns in its decisions does not require the agency to mitigate any harms. Meanwhile, one grassroots group is lobbying key lawmakers to back a draft bill that allows citizen suits to block construction of polluting facilities in minority or low-income neighborhoods.
Pressure on Democrats to tighten their proposals could heighten a confrontation with the Bush administration over its controversial decision to drop race as a factor in determining whether pollution harms communities. However, Democrats appear to be resisting the community groups’ proposals because of concerns that the citizen suit provisions would prompt widespread opposition that would block the bill’s passage.
Reprinted with permission from InsideEPA.com