1998 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Tobyclark <Tobyclark@aol.com>
Date: 12 May 1998 14:23:44
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Environmental Justice
Although it is dealing with issues beyond cleaning up contaminated sites, the
following NYTimes article may be of interest to people trying to redevelop
brownfields. This summary is from the EPA Library.

Pollution Policy Is Unfair Burden, States Tell E.P.A. The New
York Times, May 10, 1998, pA1, A16.

     State governments and major industrial groups are
challenging a new EPA policy which was designed to prevent
minority neighborhoods from receiving an unfair share of
incinerators, dumps and other sources of pollution.

     The policy addresses increasing complaints from civil rights
and environmental advocates that state agencies are guilty of
racial prejudice in granting pollution permits.

     Opponents of the policy are urging the Clinton
Administration to withdraw it, claiming that it would hamstring
state and local governments, encourage frivolous lawsuits and
discourage companies from investing in financially distressed

     The opposition puts the Clinton Administration in a bind
because many of its allies in the environmental and civil rights
movements support the administration's goal of trying to reduce
pollution near the disadvantaged.

     On Earth Day, Vice President Gore asked all Federal agencies
to re-emphasize the Administration's policy, stating "there have
been strong expressions of concern from community leaders that
our efforts to date have not been sufficient."

     EPA's policy provides detailed guidance on complaints filed
under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law
prohibits state agencies that receive Federal funding from taking
actions that unfairly burden racial minorities.

     Even when a pollution permit passes ordinary tests of
environmental laws, it might be illegal under the civil rights
law if it contributes to a pattern of pollution in a minority

     Trying to address the problems of pollution in poor and
minority communities using pollution permits has caused an
unusually vehement response from business groups.

     Business groups and state officials claim the policy will
leave their organizations vulnerable. With every permit that
comes up for renewal, a company could be held hostage by a civil
rights complaint.

     "It runs contrary to the Federal programs designed to bring
jobs and cleanup to low-income and minority areas," said William
Kovacs, vice president for environment at the United States
Chamber of Commerce. "For the last 10 years, we have been trying
to move financial resources into urban areas, trying to encourage
jobs and growth. No one is looking at the long-term economic

     Civil rights groups believe EPA's new policy is too weak,
however. "Many of us have been pressuring EPA to issue such a
guidance for many years," said Luke Cole, general counsel for the
Center of Race, Poverty and the Environment. "The present
guidance is deeply flawed in a number of respects." He said the
agency should clarify that discrimination could occur not just by
exposure to pollutants but also by increased health risks,
changes in land values and other changes in the quality of life.

     The first large case being considered under the policy
involves a chemical plant that wants to build in the industrial
corridor between Baton Rouge, La and New Orleans. EPA held up air
pollution permits for the plant on technical grounds and has been
reviewing the complaints of civil rights groups.

     New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois,
California, Virginia, Oregon, Wisconsin and Louisiana have
formally written in opposition to the policy.

     The Environmental Council of the States has also passed a
resolution saying that the agency's policy conflicts with state
and local land use policies. "This guidance would have the effect
of working against efforts to achieve environmental protection
and promote sustainable economic development," said the

     The National Environmental Justice Advisory council urged
the agency to strengthen the new policy. "Rescinding the
document, as has been suggested by some, is not a positive
approach and should be avoided," said the advisory group.

     "The Administration is committed to enforcing Title VI and
protecting the legal rights of communities that might be
disproportionately affected, but at the same time allows for
economic growth and prosperity, and is not stifling," said Laura
Ucelli, EPA's spokesperson. "With the guidance, nothing is final.
It did open a dialogue and does provide a structure for us to

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