Wednesday, July 22, 2009

EPA Administrator Jackson Speaks Out On Environmental Justice

Jul 21: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson delivered a major speech on environmental justice to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). NEJAC is conducting a Public Meeting in Arlington, Virginia from July 21 – 23. The Council is participating in discussions about EPA priorities related to environmental justice, school air toxics monitoring, recommendations for goods movement impacts on air quality, and other topics.

The following is an excerpt from the Administrator's speech and a reaction from the Sierra Club. Jackson said, "Earlier this year we also provided $800,000 in grants to fund environmental justice projects. Those will address environmental and public health issues in 28 states. And we’ve also been working hard to expand our message to new communities. I just returned from the 80th annual meeting of the League of United Latin American Citizens, where we discussed the unique challenges their community faces. Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking to a tribal group. And I’ve had several meetings with many of your local Environmental Justice partners across the country.

"But let me say loud and clear: this is just the beginning. The inauguration of the first African American president, and my subsequent confirmation as the first African American Administrator of this Agency, has forever changed the face of environmentalism in this country. I hope it sends a clear signal that environmentalism does not come in any one shape, size, or look. And if anyone lives out this truth on a daily basis -- it’s you. Environmentalism is not only about protecting wilderness or saving polar ice caps. As important as those things are, environmentalism is also about protecting people in the places where they live, and work, and raise families. It’s about making our urban and suburban neighborhoods safe and clean, about protecting children in their schools, and workers at their jobs. . .

"We have to go to every community – especially those that have been left out and left behind – and impress upon them that the issues of environmental protection are their issues, their work is our work, and their struggles are our struggles. I want you to know that I get that. I also want to be sure we’re not only talking about downsides. We have in President Obama a leader who rejects the false choice between a green environment and a green economy. That opens up opportunities to create green jobs in the places where both the 'green' and 'jobs' are absolutely vital. . .

"In the years ahead, I want to see a full-scale revitalization of what we do and how we think about environmental justice. This is not an issue we can afford to relegate to the margins. It has to be part of our thinking in every decision we make. And not just at EPA. We need the nonprofit sector. We need the academic sector. And we need the private sector. It’s absolutely essential that we have a wide range of voices raising these issues. . . My friends, the EPA is once again guided by a broad vision of public health protection and environmental preservation. Environmental justice is central to that vision. I look forward to making real progress in the months and years ahead, and continuing this important partnership."

Sierra Club applauded Administrator Lisa Jackson's call for greater diversity in the environmental movement and indicated it "takes pride in our leadership on these issues." Sierra Club President Allison Chin said, "Now, with the leadership of a diversity council and my election as our first Asian-American president, Sierra Club is committed to becoming an even more welcoming and inclusive organization."

Leslie Fields, Director of the Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program said, "The environmental movement should belong to anyone who wants clean air, clean water and a healthy planet for their families. All too often people face disproportionate risks of harm because of their demographic characteristics or economic condition, and we applaud Administrator Jackson for her sincere leadership in supporting more diversity in the environmental movement so all people can have a voice."

Access the complete text of Jackson's speech (
click here). Access a release from Sierra Club with links to additional information (click here). Access the agenda for the NEJAC meeting (click here). Access the NEJAC website for additional information (click here). Access EPA's Environmental Justice website for more information (click here).