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EPA, Congressional Black Caucus Visit South Carolina on Joint Environmental Justice Tour / Marks second stop in nationwide tour highlighting impact of environmental issues on underserved communities

Release Date: 04/19/2010
Contact Information: EPA Press Office Press@epa.gov 202-564-6794

WASHINGTON – On Sunday, April 18 and Monday, April 19, as part of the joint nationwide Environmental Justice Tour between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson traveled to South Carolina to highlight challenges faced by underserved communities in the area. South Carolina marked the second stop in the nationwide tour and included meetings and public events with U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and Delegate Donna M. Christensen (D-VI) in the cities of Spartanburg, Columbia, Aiken and North Charleston.

"We visited South Carolina to hear the voices that need to be part of the conversation on environmental issues," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We're working to lay the groundwork for new policies and new initiatives that will make environmental justice part of everyday environmental action in this nation."

“I appreciate Administrator Jackson spending two days in South Carolina to witness our environmental justice successes and our challenges,” Congressman Clyburn said. "Her visit is evidence of the Obama Administration's commitment to ensuring that minority communities who have suffered disproportionately from poor air quality, contaminated drinking water, and industrial pollution receive the resources they need to remediate these conditions and meet future challenges."

On Sunday in Columbia, EPA and the CBC hosted an Environmental Justice Town Hall at Allen University with the participation of hundreds of community leaders, elected officials, students and religious leaders. At the town hall, Administrator Jackson announced $1.4 million in brownfields funds for South Carolina, as part of a larger national announcement of nearly $80 million to 40 states, to clean up and redevelop hazardous waste sites. These investments and jobs target local, underserved and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods – places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed.

Earlier in the day, the delegation toured the ReGenesis Project in Spartanburg, a former brownfields site that a community-based organization has leveraged millions in funding for redevelopment. The project, a model for environmental justice organizations across the state, received an EPA Environmental Justice Achievement Award for its work to protect the health and environment of this community while promoting economic development.

Today, the delegation traveled to the Savannah River Site, a Superfund hazardous waste site receiving funds from the recovery act and visited an elementary school in North Charleston, which EPA is monitoring for toxic air pollution. Upcoming tour stops will include New York, Georgia, Michigan and Missouri, among other states.

The environmental justice movement was started by individuals, primarily people of color, who sought to address the inequity of environmental protection in their communities. Grounded in the struggles of the 1960s civil rights movement, the environmental justice movement sounded the alarm about the public health dangers for their families, their communities and themselves. In 1990, the Congressional Black Caucus and a bipartisan coalition of academic, social scientists and political activists met with EPA officials to discuss their findings that environmental risk was higher for minority and low-income populations. In response, the then-EPA administrator created the Environmental Equity Workgroup in July 1990 to address these issues. EPA’s environmental justice office was later established in 1992.

The principles of environmental justice uphold the idea that all communities – particularly minority and underserved communities – deserve the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, equal access to the decision-making process and a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Administrator Jackson has made promoting environmental justice and expanding the conversation on 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. At Administrator Jackson’s direction, the agency is focusing attention on incorporating environmental justice into the rulemaking process

The Congressional Black Caucus, under the auspices of its Energy and Environment Taskforce, is actively engaged on a host of environmental issues including green jobs, climate change, alternative energy options and environmental justice issues. Together with community and business leaders, faith networks and other relevant stakeholders, members of the CBC are continuing to develop a “Green Agenda” that comprehensively builds healthy families and sustainable communities by increasing access to opportunities provided by the federal government.