Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education

How Long Will the Office of Environmental Justice Last in Trump's EPA?

Does environmental justice need its own office to help vulnerable populations impacted by pollution, or can all divisions within the EPA address the issue? The Office of Environmental Justice, established in 1993, may be shut down.
July 26, 2017, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments
Environmental Protection Agency
AFGE Local 704 union President Michael Mikulka speaks as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) workers protest job cuts during a rally in Chicago, Illinois, March 2, 2017.
John Gress Media Inc

No agency will suffer a greater percentage drop in President Trump's proposed 2018 budget than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: a loss of $2.6 billion from current levels, or 31 percent, reported The New York Times on March 16 in an earlier post about how the budget cuts will affect two of American's greatest water resources: the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay. 

Costing far less money, about $2 million a year, but addressing a national problem is the Office of Environmental Justice which "works to protect human health and the environment in communities overburdened by environmental pollution by integrating environmental justice into all EPA programs, policies and activities."

"An EPA spokesperson suggested in a statement that the agency doesn’t need a special arm devoted to environmental justice to continue this work," reports Talia Buford, who covers disparities in environmental impacts for ProPublica.

"Environmental justice is an important role for all our program offices, in addition to being a requirement in all rules EPA issues,” the statement said. “We will work with Congress to help develop and implement programs and continue to work within the Agency to evaluate new ideas to properly address environmental justice issues on an agency-wide basis.“

To some extent, though, Democrats may share some blame for the jeopardy that the office "to advocate for minorities and the poor, populations most likely to face the consequences of pollution and least able to advocate for themselves," finds itself in today, adds Buford.

[I]t’s become achingly apparent that well before Trump, those who purported to champion environmental justice — primarily Democratic legislators and presidents — did little to codify the progress and programs related to it, even when they were best positioned politically to do so.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and other Democrats are racing to file bills that save the Office of Environmental Justice and similar initiatives on an emergency basis, though they know they have little chance of success.

Sadly, one can read about the the big plans the office had last October to recognize the profundity of the saying, "elections have consequences." Surprisingly, the  EJ 2020 Action Agenda still exists on the EPA website.

Hat tip to Dino GrandoniEnergy and Environmental reporter at The Washington Post.

Full Story:
Published on Monday, July 24, 2017 in ProPublica
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email