Friday, July 29, 2011

President Obama Announces Energy Nominee

Dot Harris, Nominee for Director, Ofc of Minority Economic Impact, Dept of Energy

Today the President of the United States announced his intent to nominate Dot Harris, left, of Atlanta, Georgia to be his Director of the Office of Minority Impact and Diversity for the United States Department of Energy. Since 2006, Ms. Harris has served as the National Secretary of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, and the chair of the Association’s Energy Entrepreneur Committee. Dot Harris is currently President and CEO of Jabo Industries, LLC, a minority-woman owned management consulting firm concentrating primarily in the energy, information technology, and healthcare industries.

Before joining GE, Ms. Harris was an officer and Vice President of Operations & Production for ABB Service, Inc. She also spent twelve years as Field Services Engineer and Services Manager with Westinghouse Electric Company. Ms. Harris currently serves as the National Secretary for the American Association of Blacks in Energy.

She holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC and a M.S. in Technology Management from Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, GA. (DOE, AABE, Photo courtesy AABE)

Environmental Professionals of Color- National

The Environmental Professionals of Color- National (EPOC National) is a network of leaders, many of whom are the only person or one of the few people of color working at their environmental institutions. The purpose of this network is to provide a safe space for connecting people of color across the U.S. to share information, provide support, and discuss in depth the issues we care about.

EPOC National members work on a diverse array of environmental issues, including conservation, global warming, sustainability, environmental health, an environmental justice. They fill a unique and valuable role as bridges between the environmental community and communities of color.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Environmental Justice Website

The newly-launched Environmental Justice Community Information Website is a resource for environmental justice stakeholders, community activists, elected officials, and government personnel. This resource was created via a partnership between Tennessee State University (Nashville, Tennessee) and the U.S. Department of Energy.

This interactive website is a one-stop-shop and training portal that houses several environmental and public health-based websites, including:

1) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Justice Viewer;

2) The National Institute of Health's TOXMAP website;

3) EPA's My Environment website; and

4) The Environmental Defense Fund's Scorecard website.

The online geographic information systems (GIS) mapping tools hosted by many of the new sites offer excellent opportunities for stakeholders to visualize the scope of environmental issues impacting their lives.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NAACP Report on Coal Plants

An NAACP report, Coal Blooded, Putting Profits Over People,” released Friday, lists an Indiana coal-fired power plant as a top-five “environmental justice” offender. The State Line Energy electric generating plant in Hammond, above, was rated as the fifth-worst in the nation. That plant is nearly 150 miles from Fort Wayne, but state and local NAACP officials say its effect reaches beyond northwest Indiana and should concern all Hoosiers, regardless of race. The NAACP report said the power plants are inadequately regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and that their harmful effects are borne disproportionately by people of color and lower incomes. Two of the top three worst offending plants are in Chicago.

The NAACP report, analyzed emissions and demographic factors such as race, income and population density. Those calculations became “environmental justice scores” for America’s 431 coal-fired power plants. In Indiana, in addition to the Hammond plant’s top-five ranking, Duke Energy’s R. Gallagher Generating Station in New Albany ranked seventh and a plant in Michigan City also received a failing grade, according to the report.

The company in May told the Chicago Tribune it plans to close the aging State Line as early as next year and no later than 2014, rather than spend millions to bring it in line with more stringent pollution limits.

Analyzing plants' emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and demographic factors of where the plants are located, the NAACP said "environmental justice scores" were given for each of the nation's 431 coal-fired power plants. The State Line electric generating plant was rated as the fifth-worst in the nation and the Michigan City Generating Station also received a failing grade.

The ‘Top Twelve EJ Offenders’ Nationwide

Out of the 431 coal-fired power plants that the report examined in this study, the following twelve had the worst environmental justice scores:

1. Crawford Gen. Station, Chicago, IL (Edison International)
2. Hudson Gen. Station, Jersey City, NJ (PSEG)
3. Fisk Gen. Station, Chicago, IL (Edison International)
4. Valley Power Plant, Milwaukee, WI (Wisconsin Energy)
5. State Line Plant, Hammond, IN (Dominion)
6. Lake Shore Plant, Cleveland, OH (FirstEnergy)
7. R. Gallagher Gen. Station, New Albany, IN (Duke Energy)
8. Bridgeport Station, Bridgeport, CT (PSEG)
9. River Rouge Plant, River Rouge, MI (DTE Energy)
10. Cherokee Station, Commerce City, CO (Xcel Energy)
11. Four Corners Plant, NiinahnĂ­zaad, NM (Arizona Public Service Co.)
12. Waukegan Gen. Station, Waukegan, IL (Edison International)

Jacqui Patterson, who coodinated the publication of the report, is director of the NAACP's Environmental and Climate Justice Department. (NWI Times, 7/14/2011, Journal Gazette, 7/16/2011, photo courtesy NWI Times)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

EPA Sued By California Community Groups

Central and Southern California community groups filed a federal lawsuit to force action on a 17-year-old complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about toxic waste dumps. The groups filed a complaint about toxic waste dumps with EPA 17 years ago and never received a response. Tired of waiting, they have filed a federal lawsuit.

Kettleman City, Buttonwillow and rural areas of Imperial County are home to the only toxic waste dumps in the state. Grassroots community groups say that locating the dumps only in low-income and predominantly Latino areas violates Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any recipient of federal money from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin.

El Pueblo, along with Padres Hacia una Vida Mejor of Buttonwillow, are asking a judge to order the EPA to act on the complaint, which was filed in 1994 against the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which issues permits for toxic waste dumps. The community groups say the department, which receives federal funding, must stop the "pattern and practice of racially discriminatory permitting and enforcement of toxic waste laws."

The discriminatory practices began in 1985, after the California Waste Management Board (now CalRecycle) hired a Los Angeles consulting firm, Cerrell Associates, to help identify potential sites for toxic waste facilities. Communities least likely to mount opposition to such sites, according to Cerrell's study, were rural; were made up of poor residents who work in farming or ranching; had little education or involvement in social issues; and were receptive to promises of economic benefits. Since it was written, the Cerrell report has been at the center of controversy over alleged "targeting" based on race and class.

Under the Civil Rights Act, the federally funded Department of Toxic Substances Control should issue permits more equitably. Waste Management Inc., which owns the Kettleman City dump, holds the position that allegations of discrimination are "entirely untrue."

The California complaint is one of 32 pending since the 1990s. Over the years, only one complaint has been resolved, and nearly 100 others were dismissed. (L.A. Times, 7/7/2011)

EPA Proposes Hazardous Waste Recycling Rule

To promote economic, environmental and public health benefits of waste recycling

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing new safeguards for recycling hazardous materials to protect public health and the environment. The proposal modifies EPA’s 2008 Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule, which revised hazardous waste regulations to encourage recycling of hazardous materials. The proposal will improve accountability and oversight of hazardous materials recycling, while allowing for important flexibilities that will promote its economic and environmental benefits. EPA is opening up this proposal for public comment.

EPA is also releasing for public comment its 355-page draft expanded environmental justice analysis of the 2008 DSW final rule, which evaluates the rule’s potential impact on low-income and minority communities. The analysis acknowledges that while all communities create waste, where the waste ends up is not random and there are some communities that are more likely to be affected by the waste. The 2008 DSW rule disproportionately harmed low-income and minority communities, which are more likely to be near facilities that take advantage of the exemption. No matter what the government wants to label the waste, it is still hazardous and should be subject to stringent oversight. EPA is also requesting public comment on the environmental justice analysis as well as on suggested changes received from peer review. The analysis and peer review comments will be available in the docket for this rulemaking once the proposal is published.

EPA’s re-examination of the 2008 DSW final rule identified areas in the regulations that could be improved to better protect public health and the environment with a particular focus on adjacent communities by ensuring better management of hazardous waste. The proposal includes provisions to address those areas through increased transparency and oversight and accountability for hazardous materials recycling. Facilities that recycle onsite or within the same company under the reduced regulatory requirements retained under the proposal would be subject to enhanced storage and recordkeeping requirements as compared to the 2008 rule. Companies that send their hazardous materials offsite for recycling would have tailored storage standards, while being required to send their materials to a permitted hazardous waste recycling facility. The proposed rule also creates a level playing field by requiring all forms of hazardous waste recycling to meet requirements designed to ensure materials are legitimately recycled and not being disposed of illegally.

EPA will accept comment on this proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The docket for the rulemaking is EPA-HQ-RCRA-2010-0742 and can be accessed at once the proposal is published. (EPA, NYT, 7/7/2011)

More information about this rulemaking