Environmental Agencies Failing at Civil Rights, Report Says

A report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General calls out state environmental agencies for a lack of civil rights enforecement and makes recommendations for resolving shortcomings.

October 15, 2020, 11:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


Washington D.C.

Rob Crandall / Shutterstock

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Inspector General scrutinized the agency's enforcement of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and found that the majority of state environmental agencies fail to prevent discrimination, and "the EPA is not fulfilling its obligation to get them in line," reports Naveena Sadasivam.

According to the inspector general's report, 43 state agencies failed to meet at least one of the criteria set forth by the EPA to avert discrimination. "The checklist requires, in part, that funding recipients post nondiscrimination notices in prominent locations in the office, that they provide language assistance services for those with limited proficiency in English, and that they hire a nondiscrimination coordinator," Sadasivam says. 

The EPA investigated complaints to be filed as a catalyst to investigate compliance with the nondiscrimination rules rather than proactively confirming that states were adhering to the nondiscrimination criteria checklist. 

Last week’s report is hardly the first time that the EPA has come under fire for accepting few civil rights complaints for investigation, spending years — and sometimes decades — resolving them, and almost never making findings of discrimination," writes Sadasivam, noting a 2015 investigation by Center for Public Integrity finding that the EPA dismissed 95% of submitted complaints.  

The inspector general's report makes six recommendations to remedy these instances of neglect.

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