The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would analyze the impact of a Bush-era hazardous waste loophole on low-income and communities of color that are likely to be most affected by this rule. The rule stripped federal oversight of recyclers who handle 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste generated by steel, chemical and pharmaceutical companies each year.
Numerous citizens and experts representing impacted communities traveled to and testified at an EPA public hearing on June 30th. These representatives of affected communities, academia, and environmental and civil rights groups spoke of the unacceptable risks posed to low-income and communities of color who are more likely to live near hazardous waste facilities and bear the brunt of toxic spills and contamination from irresponsible waste practices across the country.
During the Clinton administration, an executive order was handed down that required federal agencies to consider how their actions disproportionally impact low-income and communities of color.
"The promise of that order has never been fulfilled -- until now," said Lisa Evans, Earthjustice attorney. "We commend EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus, and their staff for moving in this direction and responding to the huge outcry from communities that have been ignored -- and injured -- for years.
"What this means for future rulemakings is immense. This could have some far-reaching effects on how federal agencies craft policy. We applaud the EPA for taking action on this important issue."
"This unprecedented action heralds a new day at the agency, one that considers communities that have routinely been the victims of irresponsible environmental policies," said Vernice Miller-Travis, vice chair of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities. "We hope this is the first step in developing a rule that reinstates government oversight over hazardous waste recycling and provides the strongest possible measures to protect public health and the environment."
"No waste decision of this importance should be made without assessing the environmental justice and equity implications," said Dr. Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. "It's high time the EPA got back in the business of providing equal protection for all Americans."
Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237