1998 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: tchen@sirius.com
Date: 22 Dec 1998 10:47:03
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Community Participation and EJ in Fed BF Initiatives
If you have any comments about this research article please feel free to
comment to the authors directly or to the Brownfields newsgroup.



Analysis of Community Participation and Environmental Justice in
Federal Brownfield Initiatives

Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP)
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716
PH: (302) 831-8405  FAX: (302) 831-3098
WEBSITE:  www.udel.edu/ceep

This article will be published in the Urban Habitat Program's  upcoming
Journal of Race, Poverty and Environment on Land and Social
Justice/Special Issue on Brownfields.  It summarizes a forthcoming CEEP
report on "Community Participation and Brownfield Initiatives: The Role
of Environmental Justice in Urban Revitalization."  For additional
information, or to receive a copy of the full report, please contact Dr.
John Byrne (jbbyrne@udel.edu) or Raymond P. Scattone

Brownfields expose many of the important environmental, social,
cultural, and economic problems of urban America. They are an outgrowth
of interrelated forces shaping the national landscape: urban sprawl,
environmental degradation, residential segregation, disinvestment, and
persistent socioeconomic, racial, and class divisions.

In a landmark study in 1987, the United Church of Christ Commission for
Racial Justice established a clear link between race, income, and the
siting of hazardous waste and toxic waste facilities. It found that
commercial hazardous waste facilities had the greatest chance of being
situated near communities predominantly composed of racial and ethnic
minorities. The National Law Journal reported in 1992 that the
Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) took 20% longer to place abandoned
hazardous and toxic waste sites in minority communities on the national
priorities list than it took to list similar facilities situated
elsewhere. It also found that polluters of those neighborhoods paid
fines 54% lower than polluters of white communities. In 1992 EPA
concluded that people of color and low-income communities experience
disproportionately high exposure to toxic pollutants throughout the U.S.

A 1994 National Wildlife Fund report reviewed 64 major cases of
environmental threats to public health, covering issues of pesticide
exposure, workplace hazards, air and water pollution, solid and toxic
waste, lead poisoning, trash incineration, and sewage disposal. It found
that low-income or minority communities were at greatest risk in all but
one of the cases examined.

Finally, in a 1995 study, the Center for Policy Alternatives estimated
that minorities are 47% more likely than whites to live near a
commercial toxic waste facility and 170% more likely to live in areas
with multiple toxic facilities.

Efforts to clean up brownfields are inextricably linked to issues of
environmental justice. Central to an environmental justice (EJ) approach
to brownfields is a recognition of the interconnectedness of
environmental hazards and risks with patterns of unequal development.
In 1995 EPA and the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee
(NEJAC) cosponsored public hearings to provide an opportunity for EJ
advocates and residents of brownfield-affected communities to contribute
their views on cleanup and redevelopment. A major conclusion was that
community participation in decisions governing remediation and
development of brownfields is essential to ensuring that EJ issues are
actively addressed.

In 1996 NEJAC published "Public Dialogues on Urban Revitalization and
Brownfields: Envisioning Healthy and Sustainable Communities," which
formally acknowledged the relationship between brownfields redevelopment
and environmental justice. The EPA's National and Regional Brownfields
Pilot Projects Program highlights this link. Since 1994 the program has
provided $24 million to 228 communities for brownfields cleanup and
redevelopment. The program requires awardees to provide the means for
minority and low-income communities in affected areas to participate in
and contribute to decisions on the revitalization of brownfields.
Further, awardees are expected to describe how their plans will ensure
that affected communities "benefit environmentally and economically"
from the assessment, cleanup, and reuse of brownfields.

In 1997 the University of Delaware's Center for Energy and Environmental
Policy (CEEP) initiated a study to analyze and learn from EJ and
community participation (CP) efforts in EPA's National Brownfields Pilot
Projects, and to provide recommendations on community participation to
the Urban Environmental Center, a community-based organization formed in
Delaware to raise citizen awareness about urban environmental issues.From
among the 64 projects that had been designated as of 1997, CEEP
screened more than 30 with respect to community involvement. Ten sites
were selected for in-depth analysis based on their geographic, racial,
and ethnic diversity and on the variety of community approaches those
cities were undertaking as part of their projects: Baltimore, MD;
Bridgeport, CT; Burlington, VT; Cape Charles-Northampton County, VA;
Charlotte, NC; Cleveland, OH; Kansas City, KS and MO; New Orleans, LA;
Portland, OR; and Trenton, NJ. As a reflection of progress in their
brownfields efforts, four of these sites (Baltimore, Kansas City,
Portland, and Trenton) have recently been named Brownfields Showcase
Communities by EPA.

The 10 projects were analyzed according to seven key factors.

*Inclusiveness of a community participation component
*Mechanisms for community involvement
*Obstacles encountered to community involvement
*Community perspectives on needs assessment
*The existence of an environmental justice component
*Promotion of community-industry partnerships
*Overall strengths and achievements

These issues were explored by means of a series of interviews conducted
with the EPA Regional Office with jurisdiction, the local government
office administering the award, and community members and organizations
involved in the project. Supplementing the interview responses were
supporting documents obtained from EPA and those administering the
projects. Follow-up interviews were conducted to clarify information and
identify issues that participants believed were relevant but had not yet
been address. CEEP's team solicited feedback from all involved on its
conclusions from each case study and revised its analysis when
appropriate. The findings and implications to be drawn from the case
studies were then aggregated to provide a snapshot of national
experience with brownfields redevelopment and environmental justice.

Although an EJ component is required, none of the 10 brownfields pilots
contained formal mechanisms or centrally located offices handling EJ.
Those administering pilots often had little knowledge of whom to contact
for help concerning EJ issues.  Instead, EJ was handled on an ad hoc
basis in each pilot. The matter was further complicated by incomplete
federal oversight and evaluation. In most cases, those at the regional
level had not monitored pilots with respect to EJ and CP in part because
EPA had not spelled out set measures to evaluate pilots in this regard.

What's more, because CP and EJ directives from EPA were not specific,
the degree of citizen involvement varied greatly from pilot to pilot.
CEEP constructed a continuum to capture the variability in citizen
involvement-from reactive to pro-active CP. In the reactive cases,
decisions concerning brownfields development were made among government
and business partners, with communities included after the fact in an
advisory role. In the pro-active cases, communities were involved
continuously from the start. The differences in capacity to address EJ
issues were predictable: those with a pro-active CP component proved to
be better equipped than their reactive counterparts. This finding
underscores the importance of community involvement in and awareness of
brownfields planning. In many pilots, residents of affected communities
were initially unaware of how they could articulate their views in the
process of redevelopment. If NEJAC's aims regarding brownfields and EJ
are to be effectively met, it is clear that awareness-building must be
included in the brownfields planning process.

Finally, community participation, regardless of how successfully it may
be implemented, will have little lasting value if the affected community
does not see concrete results from its involvement. In order to attract
citizens' involvement throughout the brownfields process, pilot projects
need to deliver remediation and reuse plans that are endorsed by the
affected community. EPA's pilot projects, however, award funds for site
assessment and CP and EJ activities only. CEEP's findings suggest that
EPA should consider an explicit objective of consensus-based remediation
and reuse planning in which community participation is formally required.

CEEP's study has identified a number of important lessons:

*  Community residents possess the knowledge of neighborhood
environmental and social problems that is essential to the pursuit of
just and sustainable development.
*  For affected communities to benefit from brownfields redevelopment,
clear, community-based goals must be defined, including economic,
environmental, and social benefits.
*  An important action to ensure environmental justice is the
establishment of community clearinghouses and support offices to build
awareness and capacity to choose development options that are consistent
with EJ principles.
*  Linking the goals and resources of programs such as empowerment zones
and enterprise communities to brownfields redevelopment can
substantially improve CP and EJ efforts.
*  A "Brownfields Case Study" information system needs to be created so
that communities can learn from one another's experiences, especially
with regards to CP, EJ, and brownfields.

Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware

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