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EPA Not Fulfilling Environmental Justice Requirements

Published by MAC on 2006-09-20

EPA Not Fulfilling Environmental Justice Requirements


20th September 2006

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to conduct required reviews to ensure that low-income and minority communities are getting the same environmental protections as other communities, according to a new report by the agency's inspector general.

EPA senior management "has not sufficiently directed program and regional offices to conduct environmental justice reviews" in accordance with a 1994 executive order that mandated such reviews, the inspector general said. "Consequently, the majority of respondents reported their programs or offices have not performed environmental justice reviews."

The executive order, issued by President Bill Clinton, directs agencies to make environmental justice a part of their mission by reviewing the effects of their programs on minority and low-income populations.

The 21-page report was made public Tuesday.

It found that some 60 percent of respondents had not conducted the reviews, the report said, and 87 percent of the agency's programs or offices had not even been asked to do them.

"Until these program and regional offices perform environmental justice reviews, the agency cannot determine whether its programs cause disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations," the report said.

The report recommends the EPA require its program and regional offices identify which programs, policies and activities need environmental justice reviews and require these offices to establish a plan to complete the necessary reviews.

It calls for the agency to ensure that reviews determine whether EPA's actions may have a disproportionately high and adverse health or environmental impact on minorities and low-income populations. In addition, the report recommends each program and regional office develop specific environmental justice review guidance and urges the EPA to designate a responsible office to oversee implementation of its environmental justice efforts.

In response to the findings, the EPA said it has made environmental justice a major part of its work, but agreed that it needs better guidelines and a framework for conducting formal reviews.

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