U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, left, delivered opening remarks highlighting EPA’s Environmental Justice Initiatives today at the New Orleans Marriott Hotel for the "2010 Conference on Environmental Justice, Air Quality, Goods Movement and Green Jobs" in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference is cosponsored by EPA, Dillard University and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Administrator Jackson has made promoting environmental justice and expanding the conversation of environmentalism one of the seven key priorities of her tenure at EPA. Since taking office, she has appointed a Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and a Senior Counsel for External Civil Rights in order to focus the agency’s efforts to address the health and environmental burdens faced by communities disproportionately impacted by pollution. Most recently, and consistent with this commitment, the agency announced that it would assess the impacts of its hazardous waste rule on disadvantaged communities. This action will also be used to inform EPA’s ongoing effort to strengthen the consideration of environmental justice in rulemakings.
We can talk about health care. But we also have to talk about how the poor – who get sick more often because they live in neighborhoods where the air and water are polluted – are the same people who go to the emergency room for treatment. That drives up health care costs for everyone. It hurts the local and the national economy.
We can talk about the need for more jobs and small businesses in our urban centers and metropolitan regions. But that conversation must also include the understanding that environmental challenges in our neighborhoods hold back economic growth. Poison in the ground means poison in the economy. A weak environment means a weak consumer base. And unhealthy air means an unhealthy atmosphere for investments. And in many neighborhoods, visible environmental degradation compounds other problems.