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Environmental Planning

Environmental Justice - Questions and Answers

November 2008©

1) How can environmental justice and economic development co-exist?

Some say smart growth is old wine in new bottles since it can be compared to the decades old urban renewal fad. Smart growth is a natural response to the environmental, economic, and public health impacts of sprawl.

An increasing number of municipalities look to smart growth to address their growing pains. While the idea of a smart growth neighborhood may tickle people's nostalgic fancy, a frequent question is whether communities can afford the price while balancing livability. Smart or Quality growth represents frontiers of opportunity for health and development professionals to responsibly integrate revitalization into the visions and cultural fabric of all in a community.

Community-wide brainstorming and individual discussions can gain insight into issues and expectations as they relate to the community’s values. The authentic involvement of communities in the land use and infrastructure planning process should reflect interdependence of urban planning and public health from outreach that values community.

2) How can relations between communities and industry, communities and government, and government and industry be improved?

There is little question that environmental issues can create serious concerns among community residents decision makers and other stakeholders in both rural and urban settings.  The leaders of corporations and federal administrators recognize that integrating the needs of rural and urban communities into the mission of their facilities where they conduct operations is inevitable and essential to the prosperity of all concerned.  The key to meeting these challenges can be in authentic community engagement practices promoting environmental compliance or supplemental environmental projects that have benefits for community public health, profitability, and the environment.

3) What are examples of model environmental justice activities?

§  OSEEI – Outreach Strategy for Equity in Environmental Issues in Ohio, http://deblarassoc.com/articles.html

§§  Louisiana Environmental Action Network, (LEAN) http://leanweb.org/content/view/36

§  Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, (DWEJ) http://www.dwej.org/contact.htm                             ,

4) Has the Executive Order improved matters in environmental justice communities?

Absolutely it has, however when programs lack adequate funding and progress is not measured, poor outcomes and abysmal impact can result.

5) Are the federal agencies committed to environmental justice?

The concerns of Harry Alford, President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) certainly bring this into question.    Alford believes that environmental justice legislation in Congress will erode civil rights enforcement by shifting the focus from the Justice Department to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The EPA is a regulatory agency, while DOJ enforces the law.  Since EJ within EPA has been historically funding like the proverbial step-child, Alford’s concerns are well founded. If the legislation introduced by Representative Hilda Solis (H.R. 1103) and by Senators Dick Durbin (S. 642) and Hillary Clinton (S. 2549) passes, civil rights protection in DOJ will be eroded.

6) Are businesses and industries committed to environmental justice?

The most visible example of industry and business action in support of EJ is Responsible Care®. Responsible Care® is the chemical industry’s global voluntary initiative under which companies, through their national associations, work together to continuously improve their health, safety and environmental performance.  This voluntary program puts chemistry at work in a good way and helps the industry to operate safely, profitably and with care for future generations.

 

 

 
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