Monday, June 25, 2012

Southeast Regional Environmental Justice Conference


Registration Now Open

Conference Information

When: August 16-17, 2012

Where: Atlanta Federal Center - Sam Nunn Bldg.
61 Forsyth Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30303

Cost: FREE

Audience: communities, states, local businesses, colleges, and universities in GA, AL, MS, TN, KY, FL, SC, NC

There are three easy ways to register:
  • Online:
  • By Email: Send an email to with "Register for the Regional EJ Conference" in the subject line. Please provide your name, organization, mailing address, email address, telephone number, and workshop selections for breakout sessions 1 and 2.
  • By Phone: Please call Ella McLendon at 404-562-8316. On the voice message system, please say and spell your name, organization, mailing address, email address, telephone number, and workshop selections for breakout sessions 1 and 2.
Mark your calendars for the Southeast Regional Environmental Justice Conference, to be held in Atlanta, GA on August 16-17, 2012. This conference is essential for promoting environmental justice and equality in EPA Region 4. Registration is now open and will be available through August 10, 2012.
  • Learn about tangible solutions to address environmental, social, and health Impacts associated with environmental pollution
  • Engage in networking opportunities with environmental justice leaders and organizations
  • Participate in various interactive workshops
For more information, contact Sheryl Good (, (404) 562-9559

NEJAC Community Conference Call


Intended Audience: Environmental Justice and Tribal Communities or Organizations
  When: June 27, 2012

 Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

 Conference Line: 1-866-299-3188; code: 919-541-5624#

(To participate, please plan to join the call at least 10 minutes prior to the start time. The phone line is limited to 125 participants on a first-come first-served basis)

Purpose: To provide information on upcoming activities in EPA's Air Programs and foster a dialog with communities on their air quality issues. This call will provide updates on the:
  • National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) Meeting scheduled for July 24-25, 2012
  • Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities
  • New features of the Ultraviolet Index and how it differs from EPA's Air Quality Index
  • Air emissions and associated health impacts as a result of shale gas drilling, fracturing and production
  • EPA's Air Programs and Regulations
    • Federal Implementation Plan and Revisions to Regional Haze
    • Particulate Matter National Ambient Air Quality Standards (PM NAAQS)
    • Portland Cement-Amendments in Response to Reconsideration
    • Polyvinyl Chloride and Copolymers Production (PVC) NESHA
For more information, contact Lena Epps-Price (, (919) 541-5573.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

EPA EJ Title VI Comment Period Ends June 19th

Advancing Environmental Justice through Title VI Plan EJ 2014 Draft Supplement Comment Period Ends June 19th.  Administrator Jackson has made improving EPA's civil rights program a priority. Complying with EPA's statutory civil rights obligations is a critical part of the Agency's efforts to advance environmental justice. As part of this effort, EPA is pursuing long overdue, vigorous, robust, and effective implementation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination statutes.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), in consultation with the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) and the Office of General Counsel (OGC), have developed a draft supplemental implementation plan, "Advancing Environmental Justice through Title VI", for Plan EJ 2014. The draft focuses on Title VI of Civil Rights Act and its integration with Plan EJ 2014.
EPA continues to ask for your comments on the Title VI Draft Supplement. Please visit  to review and provide comments on the supplement.

As a reminder, the opportunity to submit comments via the internet, by email and through postal mail will end at 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday June 19, 2012.

EPA Environmental Justice Blog

Mustafa Ali
Agency's EJ Blog Launched on April 17th


By Mustafa Ali

Nothing brings about change faster than when local communities get involved and organize to improve the conditions in their cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Over the years, I have travelled to communities across the country, where the impacts of pollution and public health problems are all too real. On each of these visits, I have been struck by what a difference it makes when residents are involved in the environmental decision-making and have a voice in designing a vision for the future in the places they call home.

Community engagement is a key tenant of environmental justice and why it is so important that we have a place to share our stories, or successes, and our expertise. It is our hope that this blog will support the online community of advocates working for environmental justice and create a space where we can highlight the positive activities happening in communities to reduce environmental and health disparities. Organizations, businesses and citizens throughout America are trying a wide range of approaches to advance environmental justice. We want to capture these good ideas and connect them to others across the country.

Additionally, many government agencies offer resources for overburdened communities, but it can seem daunting to locate them all. And, since EPA’s Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, promoted environmental justice as one of her top priorities, there has been important progress at EPA and other federal agencies to address environmental justice concerns and expand the benefits of government programs in low-income and minority communities. Environmental Justice in Action! will also serve as a space where we can share information about the resources, tools, and programs available to help achieve healthy and sustainable communities.

My goal for this blog is to make this a resource for you and to provide an opportunity for everyone to join the conversation on environmentalism. So, it is important that we hear from you! Let us know what types of information would be most useful and interesting to you.What do you want to learn more about? Please post your thoughts and comments here and on future posts to help us better design this blog to meet your needs. While the government can provide support and assist in building capacity in communities, putting environmental justice into action takes you!

About the author: Mustafa Ali currently serves as the Associate Director of Communications for EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. He has been a national speaker, trainer and facilitator on social justice issues for the past 20 years and focused on the issue of environmental justice for the past 19 years.

EPA EJ Office's New Video Series

EPA's Office of Environmental Justice has officially launched its 20th Anniversary Video Series. These videos feature federal and local government officials, non-profit leaders and students who share stories about the lessons that they have learned over their time working on environmental justice. They will be featured on the Environmental Justice in Action Blog.

The first video available on the blog today features Vernice Miller-Travis. Watch the video, share it, and let EPA know your thoughts in the comments section. Also, be sure to add your e-mail to the subscribe link on the upper right side of the blog's home page to receive EPA's weekly posts. Clicking the "Like" button is another way to let your friends know about this great resource.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

California Cap & Trade Discrimination Complaint To EPA

The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment has filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday on behalf of a coalition of environmental justice and civil rights activists alleging that cap-and-trade provisions in California's pioneering program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions discriminate against people of color.

The groups, which represent minority communities, accused the California Air Resources Board of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it agreed to allow polluters in low-income areas to use carbon offsets to buy their way out of pollution reduction under the state's global warming reduction plan. Cap and trade allows them to buy allowances from other facilities or offsets from out of state or even internationally, denying communities next to refineries and other polluting businesses the benefits that would occur through direct regulationwhich filed the complaint.

The groups assert that it is discrimination because these communities, which are overwhelmingly populated by people of color are very close to cap-and-trade facilities. In particular, the African American population is disproportionately affected.

The groups fought against oil companies and global warming skeptics to support - AB32, the landmark law passed in 2006 that requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  However, the groups opposed the cap and trade provision of AB32 and want to see the benefits on site in the communities that suffer from disproportionately large numbers of pollution-caused illnesses. The EPA complaint mirrors a lawsuit previously filed by the same groups that is still pending in state court.

The Air Resources Board believes efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, including cap-and-trade provisions, will benefit every community, but the goal of AB32 was to reduce statewide carbon emissions, not localized smog. There are separate regulations, he said, that control diesel emissions from buses and trucks and restrict smokestack pollution in ports and rail yards.

The EPA's Office of Civil Rights now has 20 days to decide whether to accept the complaint. If it is accepted, then regulators will have 180 days to investigate the case and make a preliminary finding. The complaint cites studies that show that people of color make up 66 percent of the state's population most heavily hit by pollution, with African Americans making up the vast majority of the victims. (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/12/2012)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Environmental Justice in the Workplace

When people go to work, they put their lives in the hands of their employers. Those employers have a duty of care to their employees to protect them from harm. However, many people are exposed to harmful substances during the course of their work. Sometimes, they contract life-limiting diseases as a result. There is a tendency among some to think exposure to toxic substances only happens in the third world and that in America, we had consigned dangerous working conditions to history with our labor laws. They are wrong. An estimated 350,000 workers contract an industrial disease each year in the United States, caused directly by their working environment. 50,000-70,000 die of them.

Disease and Damage

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for protecting workers in the US. They exist to enforce legislation on workplace health and safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 makes employers responsible for their workers’ health and safety at work, but that does not mean that they always do, despite the OHSA’s best efforts. Some workers, such as farm workers, are not covered by the OSHA but should be covered by state agencies. While legal protection for workers does exist, there are many examples of workers suffering because their employers failed to adequately protect them. Often, these workers come from the most vulnerable groups in society, such as migrant workers. People on low incomes often have no option other than to take jobs in the most dangerous industries. African American and Hispanic workers are over-represented in low-wage, hazardous jobs, and so these communities are more likely than others to be impacted by poor working conditions.

Industrial, construction and agricultural jobs tend to be the most dangerous. Construction and maintenance workers can be exposed to chemicals such as asbestos and other chemical dusts in the fabric of buildings. Manufacturing workers can be exposed to all kinds of liquid and other chemicals in the course of the manufacturing process. Miners often breathe in large quantities of harmful coal dust and other residue. Farm workers are exposed to harmful pesticides and even sometimes to dangerous diseases spread by animals, such as anthrax. Even without exposure to chemicals, workers health can be damaged by long hours and dangerous machinery.Nearly all of the diseases caused by these (and other) hazards can be prevented by good working practices, such as providing proper safety equipment to those handling chemicals, carrying out asbestos surveys and giving all workers safety training.

Workers Fight Back

We know that there are numerous violations of safety legislation every day, as many employers believe they can get away with lax safety standards. However, some workers are not willing to just accept dangerous working conditions and the risks that go with them. Many of them will have seen what those conditions have done to former colleagues.

In California, California Rural Legal Assistance helps farmworkers fight for justice in their working conditions. The California Labor Code exempts farm workers from its forty-hour maximum working week. Instead, they can work for up to sixty hours, despite often facing harsh conditions and physical fatigue. Several farmworkers die just from heat exhaustion each year, and many others’ health is damaged by exposure to chemicals.

The Environmental Justice for Cleaning Workers Campaign fights on behalf of cleaning workers exposed to harmful chemicals in the course of their work. They recognize that cleaning workers are more likely than others to suffer from a range of diseases, including certain cancers, asthma and neurological diseases. Children of cleaning workers are more likely to be born disabled, and women are more likely to miscarry than others. They have had some success in persuading employers to limit the use of harmful chemicals.
These are two local organizations working for change. There should be more.

Can We Do More?

We have legislation in place designed to protect workers from harm, and yet it often fails to do so. No-one should die trying to make a living. Those who suffer most are often those least able to fight back, such as migrant farm workers. National organizations need to help support local groups in their fight against poor working conditions. Individual workers cannot fight back without risking their jobs, and few if any vulnerable workers are unionized. United and with help on their side, they could do so much more.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Environmental Health News Publicizes Environmental Justice

Today Environmental Health News (EHN) begins a three-week series, Pollution, Poverty and People of ColorThey will be examining the long-discussed, rarely-addressed issues of environmental justice in urban and rural communities across America.

Today's story focuses on the refineries and close-in neighborhoods of Richmond, California. The Bay Area city of 103,000 is ringed by five oil refineries, three chemical factories, eight Superfund sites and more.

Help us spread the word.  Contact me or editor Marla Cone if you have questions or comments on the series.

Peter Dykstra
Environmental Health News
The Daily Climate
(o) 770-929-8052
(c) 404-272-3304
Twitter: pdykstra