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EPA, Congressional Black Caucus Announce Joint Environmental Justice Tour Jackson, Miss. marks first stop on tour highlighting impact of environmental issues on underserved communities

Release Date: 01/22/2010
Contact Information: EPA Press Office Press@epa.gov 202-564-6794

WASHINGTON – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, today announced plans to visit American communities most ravaged by environmental degradation and pollution. The joint EPA-CBC Environmental Justice Tour will visit several areas throughout the country to highlight environmental justice challenges faced by Americans in all communities. The tour will also include stops in South Carolina, Maryland, and Georgia among other states.

Mississippi marks the first stop on the tour with visits to Greenville and Jackson on January 22-24. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) will host Administrator Jackson in Greenville where both a roundtable discussion with regional mayors and tour of a local water treatment plant are slated. In Jackson, EPA and the CBC will host an Environmental Justice Conference at Jackson State University with the participation of community leaders, elected officials, students and religious leaders.

“Environmental justice is a priority for EPA and must be part of every action we take. I’m proud to join Representative Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus in taking that message directly to our communities,” said Administrator Jackson. “By meeting people where they are and talking to them about the challenges they face, we can broadly expand the conversation on environmentalism. Instead of being left further behind, these communities can begin work on solutions to improve their health, the environment and the economy.”

“The consequences of global climate change, disastrous trends of environmental degradation, and our nation’s perilous dependence on fossil fuels are being felt in communities here in the United States and around the world, especially in communities of color,” said CBC Chair Barbara Lee. “As our nation moves forward to address the environmental injustices and health impacts of climate change, and seeks to develop responsible solutions for our energy crisis through the establishment of green businesses, jobs and job training, African American Communities must have increased access to opportunities in our ever-evolving green economy.”

“I am glad that Administrator Jackson chose Mississippi for her first visit. It shows that she’s interested in environmental issues related to our district,” said Congressman Bennie G. Thompson.

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. This tour is meant to highlight the environmental challenges facing poor and undeserved communities across America.

Administrator Jackson has made promoting environmental justice and expanding the conversation of 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. Most recently, and consistent with this commitment, the agency announced that it would asses the impacts of its hazardous waste rule on disadvantaged communities. This action will also be used to inform EPA’s ongoing effort to strengthen the consideration of environmental justice in rulemakings.

The Congressional Black Caucus, under the auspices of its Energy & 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.