Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mossville, LA Group Submits Environmental Racism Petition

Jun 23: Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (AEHR), a human rights law firm, has submitted a Second Amended Petition and Petitioners’ Observations on the Government’s Reply Concerning the United States Government’s Failure to Protect the Human Rights of the Residents of Mossville, Louisiana, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS). The submission is on behalf of Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN) and residents of Mossville, Louisiana, pursuant to Article 23 of the Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Commission.

The 97-page petition charges that the residents of the small unincorporated area of Mossville, composed of approximately 375 households, predominantly African American, located between two incorporated areas suffer from severe health problems, elevated levels of cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals, a devastated environment, and a deteriorated quality of life, all of which arise from governmental approvals of highly toxic industrial development in and around Mossville.

The petition indicates that the United States government and its political subdivisions have authorized fourteen industrial facilities to manufacture, process, store, and discharge toxic and hazardous substances in close geographic proximity to Mossville residents. Three of these facilities -- an oil refinery, a vinyl manufacturer, and a petrochemical facility -- are located within the recognized historic boundaries of Mossville, and eleven other facilities -- three vinyl manufacturers, one coal-fired power plant, and eight petrochemical facilities -- are located within 0.8 kilometers (one-half mile) of the community. Each of the facilities in the Mossville area has received from governmental agencies the requisite permits to pollute the air, water, and land.

The petition charges, "Although the environmental and health agencies of the United States have documented the massive industrial pollution burdens on the Mossville community, as well as residents’ exposure to health-damaging levels of toxic chemicals, these agencies have failed to adequately address this environmental health crisis that denies Mossville residents their fundamental human rights to life, health, and privacy. Furthermore, although the United States government has acknowledged the pervasive pattern of discrimination that subjects Mossville, as well as other African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American communities throughout the nation, to racially disproportionate toxic pollution burdens, the United States government has failed to protect the human right to freedom from racial discrimination."

Mossville and the MEAN group seek remedies for these human rights violations and respectfully requests that the Commission, pursuant to human rights laws and standards, recommend to the United States that it: (1.) provide medical services to Mossville residents suffering from diseases and health problems associated with environmental toxic exposures, including health monitoring services; (2.) offer appropriate relocation to consenting Mossville residents that allows them to live in healthier environs, away from toxic industrial facilities and contaminated sites; (3.) refrain from issuing environmental permits and other approvals that would allow any increase in pollution by existing industrial facilities located in close proximity to the Mossville community, and refrain from issuing any environmental permits and other approvals that would allow the introduction of any new industrial facility in the Mossville area; and (4.) reform its existing environmental regulatory system in a number of specified ways.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is one of two bodies in the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission has its headquarters in Washington, DC. The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS). Its mandate is found in the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The IACHR represents all of the member States of the OAS. It has seven members who act independently, without representing any particular country. The members of the IACHR are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS.

Access the complete Mossville petition (click here). Access the AEHR website for more information (click here). Access the IACHR website for additional information (click here).