Thursday, April 24, 2008

Senate Passes Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

The Senate voted 95-0 to approve the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 493), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment. The legislation now goes back to the House, which passed in the House of Representatives on April 25, 2007 by a roll call vote of 420 Ayes, 3 Nays, 9 Present/Not Voting. President Bush supports the legislation.

Title I - Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance: (Excerpt) Prohibits a group health plan from requesting or requiring an individual or family member of an individual from undergoing a genetic test. Provides that such prohibition does not: (1) limit the authority of a health care professional to request an individual to undergo a genetic test; or (2) preclude a group health plan from obtaining or using the results of a genetic test in making a determination regarding payment. Requires the plan to request only the minimum amount of information necessary to accomplish the intended purpose.

Title II - Prohibiting Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Genetic Information: (Excerpt) Prohibits, as an unlawful employment practice, an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee from discriminating against an employee, individual, or member because of genetic information. Prohibits, as an unlawful employment practice, an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee from limiting, segregating, or classifying employees, individuals, or members because of genetic information in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive such individuals of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect their status as employees.

Jody Platt Garcia and Corey Turner from the University of Michigan and the Genetics Equity Network, did an excellent job of coordinating educational outreach and support for this legislation. GEN also provided testimony before Congress in support of the bill. (The Washington Post) (2006 Howard Univ Conference)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

EJ Conference 2008 Plugged on NPR on Earth Day

African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) President Norris McDonald appeared on National Public Radio (NPR) on Earth Day (April 22) and discussed environmental and environmental justice issues. During the program he discussed the upcoming State of Environmental Justice in America Conference 2008.

The theme of the program was, "How Does 'Going Green' Impact Black America?" NPR writes:

"The environmental movement has become increasingly mainstream, but on this 38th anniversary of Earth Day, we take a look at how it affects African Americans. For people struggling to survive a tough economy, do they have time to care about being "green"? We get insight from Monique Harden, co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, and Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Abstract: Household pesticides As An Environmental Justice Issue

Title: Household pesticides as an environmental justice issue: A review of the problem’s history and present policies and community action

Abstract: Health researchers have found evidence of class and racial disparities in household pesticide exposure since the late 1960s. Many explain these differences with reference to poor housing conditions, which force residents to choose between living with vermin and high levels of (often futile) chemical use. This paper traces the evolution of public policy and community action approaches to reducing indoor pesticide exposure. Residents have resisted spraying campaigns imposed by housing managers, but have also resorted to individual pesticide use. Recent lawsuits make the case that agencies such as Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency fall short of their duty to promote low-toxicity pest control methods. Activists have pressured housing agencies to involve residents in redesigning pest management campaigns and improve housing conditions overall. The paper argues that approaches which empower residents to take greater control of their housing conditions will produce the most sustainable and genuine results.

Dawn Biehler, University of British Columbia
Photo Courtesy The Early Show

Abstract: Arctic Contaminants Action Program

Title: “Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) Indigenous Peoples Community Action Initiative to Address Local Sources of Contamination in the U.S. and Adjacent Coastal Russian Arctic Communities”

Abstract: High levels of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals have caused serious concern about health effects on the Arctic indigenous populations. These pollutants accumulate in the Arctic and are biomagnified in the food chain. Studies show that contaminants are found in alarming concentrations in the blood of indigenous peoples.

US EPA, Office of International Affairs, through the Arctic Contaminants Action Program, together with the Gwich’in Council International and Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North, developed an “Indigenous Peoples Community Action Initiative” to implement risks reduction measures associated with human exposure to contaminants, through management of toxic and hazardous wastes by the indigenous communities.

A focus of this Initiative is improving human health, training, information sharing and developing strategies for solutions through development of models to address environmental legacies at the community level. This paper discusses ongoing work in indigenous communities as model actions to achieve Environmental Justice.

Eleonora Barnes, EPA, OIA

Abstract: Artisanal Gold Mining in Senegal, West Africa

Title: Artisanal Gold Mining in Senegal, West Africa - The Reduction of Environmental Mercury Emissions Using Improved Technology and Training Office of International Affairs

Abstract: Approximately a quarter of the world’s gold supply comes from artisanal or small scale gold mining. It is also a significant source of mercury release into the environment in the developing world. Miners combine mercury with gold to form an amalgam. The amalgam is heated over an open flame to burn off the mercury, and gold is left at a purity of 70 to 80 percent. Mercury amalgamation results in 30% of the world’s anthropogenic mercury releases, affecting up to 15 million miners, including 4.5 million women and 600,000 children.

We are promoting the use of simple and cost-effective retorts to capture and reuse mercury during the mercury burn-off stage. The use of this technology will decrease the occupational exposure to mercury, its release into the environment, and its harm to communities and public health. This project was implemented in Senegal in 2006 to introduce miners to this retort technology.

Wendy M. Graham, EPA

Monday, April 14, 2008

Environmental Justice in Israel

Abstract Title: Environment, Planning and Society in Urban Space in Israel

The Environmental Justice Committee (EJC) was initiated 4 years ago by the umbrella organization of the environmental NGO's in Israel. The Environmental Justice Committee acts as conduit for social and environmental grassroots activities. EJC is also constructing environmental justice as a new thematic perception of environmentalism and developing it as a scientific discipline in Israel. The experience in the United States in the field of Environmental Justice is very relevant to the ability to promote Environmental Justice in different levels of activities (public, political, academic) in Israel.

Environmental Justice Report
(Issued at the Israeli parliament special event on the 6th of November).

Developed by Ms. Carmit Lubanov

The Environmental Justice Committee, Life & Environment and at Cohn Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas – Tel Aviv University (Link)

Abstract: Opportunities in the Nuclear Energy Industry

Abstract Title: Environmental Justice & Nuclear Power: Business Opportunities in the Nuclear Energy Industry

Abstract: The workshop will examine how African American businessmen and women can participate in the anticipated nuclear power plant construction renaissance. The workshop will bring together representatives from the nuclear power industry, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders interested in assuring that America will have the power it needs to satisfy our society. It will also describe how minorities can participate.

Blacks do not generally own companies that provide energy products and services, particularly in the nuclear power industry. Blacks do not own any of the energy infrastructure in the U.S. There are many reasons for this lack of participation, but one glaring reason is the very large amount of money needed to participate in an ownership capacity in the energy sector. This workshop will examine how companies could benefit by serving as mentors to minority entrepreneurs and investors. It will also show how minority entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders can be helpful in assuring the success of these huge investments. Such partnerships could bring fresh perspectives and unique opportunities to both partners.

America is poised to launch a renewal of nuclear power plant construction, which will involve billions of dollars for each plant. There are huge opportunities to participate in this renaissance if minority entrepreneurs and investors are aware of the products and services needed. Of course, it would also help to have contacts in companies that will be building new plants. There are also many ancillary opportunities because of the nature of the business. These include transportation of nuclear waste by truck, rail and barge, security, construction of casks for transport of spent fuel to Yucca Mountain, electricians, physicists, metal and concrete workers, plumbers, computers, electronics, and more.

The workshop will also examine potential constraints to participation and how these problems can be overcome. Although nuclear power is not normally included as providing green jobs, this workshop will clearly describe how this industry will be creating such employment and how it can be leveraged to create opportunities in other areas, such as emissions trading. Finally, the workshop will describe how these opportunities in the nuclear area can also complement new developments in conservation, efficiency, coal, carbon dioxide and transportation fuels.

Developed by Norris McDonald

Seattle Mayor Greg Nichols Issues Executive Order On Race

Seattle Mayor Gregory Nichols, right, issued Executive Order 05-08 on Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement that directs City departments to perform outreach and public engagement in a manner that reflects the racial and cultural diversity of Seattle. The Executive Order directs City departments to develop a common approach to outreach and public engagement and coordinate implementation Citywide.

Executive Order 05-08 further directs the Seattle Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Neighborhoods to co-lead implementation of this policy. The Executive Order was issued on April 4, 2008.

The Inclusive Public Engagement Policy states that, "The City of Seattle is committed to ending institutional racism and creating a city that is enriched by its diverse cultures, with civic participation by all community members."

Inquiries regarding the Executive Order should be directed to the Race and Social Justice Initiative Manager in the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at (206) 684-4500.

Attachment A: Inclusive Public Engagement Policy

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Abstract: GIS Applications in EJ Research and Activism

Title: Workshop: Geographic Information Systems Applications in Environmental Justice Research and Activism

Abstract: Since the incipience of the modern Environmental Justice Movement, cartography and map interpretation have played significant roles. The 1983 U.S. General Accounting Office study “Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities,” and the 1987United Church of Christ report “Toxic Waste and Race in the United States” were both largely based upon spatial analysis of the correlation between toxic hazards and geographic regions occupied by people of color groups.

The pivotal 1992 National Law Journal article “Unequal Protection” included regional demographic analyses to reveal that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been posing much higher fines for polluters in “white areas” than for polluters in “minority areas.” Dueling applications of geographic information systems (GIS) maps were the focal point in the seminal “Select Steel Case” during the late 1990s at Flint, Michigan. The EPA Region V “Environmental Justice Assessment Process Flowchart” specifically mentions using GIS as a means to determine the status of “environmental justice communities.”

Drawing from over 20 years experience with GIS, the presenter will detail the evolution of GIS and geospatial technology from the beginnings of the movement to the present. Cases studies will be described in order to demonstrate effective applications of GIS-based approaches in environmental investigations. Options for making software available to grassroots organizations will be shared, in addition to the numerous mapping tools now available online to support environmental justice investigations. Opportunities for free and/or low-cost GIS training will be noted.

David A. Padgett, Associate Professor of Geography, Tennessee State University

Are Green Jobs The New Environmental Justice?

Recent conferences sponsored by traditional environmental groups and minority-led groups in Pittsburgh and Memphis have touted the coming of green jobs as a result of building solar and wind projects to mitigate global warming. Hopefully this will happen, but history says it will be an uphill climb. Unions joined with a couple of mainstream green groups in sponsoring one of the conferences, but none of the environmental groups are union. There is talk of mainstream green groups and environmental justice groups cooperating to create green jobs, but not even a handful of African Americans work as policy professionals at traditional environmental groups. One would think that would be a logical place to start in creating green jobs for low-income people and members of minority groups, particularly since their combined budgets total $6 billion annually.

Congress just passed The Green Jobs Act of 2007 this past December, but the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) had similar goals back in the 1970s. The presidential candidates are also chatting up 'green jobs' as the mechanism for solving the twin problems of low-income/minority job needs and global warming. In addition, renewable energy tax incentives were renewed by the Senate last week and now move to the House for consideration. Renewables will need all the help it can get because solar and wind currently generate much less than 1% of our nation's electricity needs. So hopefully the big corporations and the little entrepreneurs will get together and pump up renewables in the name of jobs creation and climate change mitigation. The economy is also heading south right now so any job creation will be a good thing. However, these should be real jobs that are produced for real people and not just inspirational rhetoric in the name of environmental justice, climate change and mainstream environmental group fundraising.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Abstract: Legal Session #1

Title: Community Benefits Agreements (CBA): Opportunity or Trap for Community Groups?

A community benefits agreement, or CBA, is a private contract between a developer and a community coalition that sets forth the benefits that the community will receive from the project. Common benefits include living wages, local hiring and training programs, affordable housing, environmental remediation and funds for community programs. CBAs ensure that development is equitable and benefits all members of the community, eventually contributing to stronger local economies, livable neighborhoods and increased public participation in the planning process.

While CBAs are strongly supported by many stakeholders, they are not always perfect vehicles to promote social justice issues. Practical problems from organizing large and diverse coalitions of community groups to negotiating with legally and politically sophisticated developers can make CBAs unwieldy tools in many cases. Moreover, CBAs have yet to stand the test of judicial review. This session will explore the opportunities and shortcomings of CBAs in more detail, providing examples of successful, and not-so-successful CBAs, and discussing some of the problems that may arise during the community organizing, negotiating and implementation phases. Finally, questions about the enforcement of CBAs and their legal validity will be addressed.

Patty Salkin Developed Session
Associate Dean and Director
Government Law Center of Albany Law School

Abstract: Brownfields/Benefits Session

Title: Restorative Environmental Justice: Assessing Brownfield Initiatives, Revitalization, And Community Economic Development In St. Petersburg, Florida.

Joseph W. Dorsey, Ph.D.

Abstract: Since the 1970s businesses have been leaving urban areas in order to build on cheaper real estate and/or to cluster in industrial parks. Many of these companies were polluting industries and their departure from previous locations, many times, left behind structures containing pollutants and hazardous waste in storage or in the local soil and water. These abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial or commercial facilities are called “brownfields.” It is likely that residents and wildlife living in close proximity to these contaminated sites may have suffered adverse environmental impacts.

Brownfield initiatives emerged from a movement seeking to reverse the tide of pollution production, inner city decay, and urban sprawl. Through brownfield redevelopment efforts across the nation, cities, such as St. Petersburg, Florida, are being rejuvenated by property owners who are divesting in their environmentally impaired assets and reinvesting in community economic development. Policies created by federal, state, and local governments are being implemented to clean up and recycle thousands of acres of contaminated property, create jobs, prevent pollution, and preserve green space.

Restorative Environmental Justice (REJ) as a concept highlights the ethical value of widening the scope of corporate organizational culture to include residential stakeholders. Restorative Environmental Justice taps into the recovery and re-distributive components of brownfield redevelopment. The notion of Restorative Environmental Justice provides opportunities for corporate decision-makers and public officials to rectify or ameliorate situations that disenfranchised or harmed particular communities in the past by investing in community redevelopment areas (CRAs).

This research paper will assess the current status of brownfield initiatives, urban revitalization, and community economic development in St. Petersburg, Florida as a case study with environmental policy implications for the State of Florida. Factors to be discussed include investments in enterprise zones, community redevelopment areas, new jobs, affordable housing, property ownership, the redistribution of resources to the poor, and raising the standard of living and the quality of life in disadvantaged neighborhoods in order to achieve some level of “restorative environmental justice.”

Joseph Bruss Developed Session

Friday, April 4, 2008

Forty Years Ago Today Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated


"Forty years ago today, America was robbed of one of history’s most consequential advocates for equality and civil rights. On this day, we mourn the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and we celebrate his powerful and eloquent message of justice and hope.

Dr. King was a man of courage and vision. He understood that love and compassion will always triumph over bitterness and hatred. His words and deeds inspired Americans of all races to confront prejudice and to work to ensure that our country is a land of opportunity for all its men and women.

We have made progress on Dr. King’s dream, yet the struggle is not over. Ensuring freedom and equality for all Americans remains one of our most important responsibilities. As we reflect upon Dr. King’s life and legacy, we must recommit ourselves to following his lasting example of service to others."

George W. Bush