Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice Act of 2017

March 16, 2018

 

Dear Member of Congress:

The undersigned members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed urge you to cosponsor the Environmental Justice Act of 2017 (S. 1996/H.R. 4114). Together, our coalitions represent more than 350 organizations across the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the Delaware River watershed, which cover more than 77,000 square miles and are home to over 25 million residents across 7 states and the District of Columbia. 

 

This bill is essential to ensuring that the most burdened communities throughout the United States receive equitable access to clean air and clean water. For decades, our nation’s communities of color, indigenous, and low-income communities have experienced disproportionate negative environmental and human health impacts. Those living in marginalized communities continue to bear the burden of infrastructure, industrial, and commercial development, yet see few of the benefits. By living in proximity to hazardous sites, these communities face higher risk for exposure to toxic chemicals and associated health impacts like asthma and lead poisoning. The 1994 Executive Order on Environmental Justice (EO 12898) helped to focus federal attention on addressing these inequities, though many gaps remain to better protect all Americans. 

 

The Environmental Justice Act of 2017 would expand and codify EO 12989 including: strengthening coordination among federal agencies to eliminate adversities that promote environmental injustice; improving public access to information and participation in the federal decision making process; and codifying the Council on Environmental Quality’s guidance assisting federal agencies with their National Environmental Policy Act procedures that address environmental justice concerns. This bill would also require the consideration of cumulative impacts for permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which would help improve the quality of life for communities in urban and rural areas within close proximity to superfund sites or areas with concentrations of polluting facilities.    This bill would additionally strengthen legal protections against environmental injustice. Communities throughout our watersheds, such as Baltimore, Camden, and Philadelphia could bring statutory claims for damages under common law and request injunctive relief for environmentally caused health crisis events that have severe impacts on children and future generations. Furthermore, this bill would restore the right for individuals to bring actions under the Civil Rights Act against entities engaging in discriminatory practices.   

 The improvements would benefit millions of residents in the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River watersheds by ensuring that all are protected from harmful and unnecessary exposure to pollutants in the environment. Thank you for reviewing this important request and please consider cosponsoring the Environmental Justice Act of 2017. 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Action Together NEPA

American Littoral Society 

American Rivers

Aquashicola/Pohopoco Watershed Conservancy

Audubon Naturalist Society 

Audubon Pennsylvania

Baltimore Tree Trust

Basha Kill Area Association

Bertsch-Hokendauqua-Catasauqua Watershed Association

Blue Heron Environmental Network 

Brodhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited

Cacapon Institute 

Coalition for Smarter Growth 

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

Darby Creek Valley Association

Delaware Highlands Conservancy

Delaware Nature Society

 Earth Forum of Howard County 

Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation

Environment New Jersey

 Friends for the Abbott Marshlands

Friends of Accotink Creek 

Friends of Cherry Valley Friends of Dyke Marsh 

Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek 

Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River

Friends of the Upper Delaware River

Green Valleys Watershed Association

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake 

Isles, Inc.

Lakawanna River Conservation Association 

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association 

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania 

Lynnhaven River NOW

Maryland Conservation Council 

Maryland League of Conservation Voters 

Mattawomen Watershed Society 

Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoor Partners

Musconetcong Watershed Association

National Parks Conservation Association

National Wildlife Federation

Natural Resources Defense Council 

New Jersey Audubon

New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Highlands Coalition

New Jersey League of Conservation Voters

New Jersey Outdoor Alliance

New York League of Conservation Voters

Newtown Creek Coalition

PennFuture

Pennsylvania Council of Churches 

Pennsylvania Land Trust Association

Pennypack Ecological Trust

Piedmont Environmental Council 

Pinelands Preservation Alliance

Potomac Conservancy

Rachel Carson Council 

Severn River Association 

Shenandoah Valley Network 

Southern Maryland Audubon Society

 Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association 

Tobyhanna Creek/Tunkhannock Creek Watershed Association

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.

Trash Free Maryland

Trout Unlimited

Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition

Urban Promise Ministries

Valley Creek Restoration Partnership

Virginia Conservation Network 

Waterkeepers Chesapeake 

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy 

West Virginia Rivers Coalition  

Western Pocono Chapter of Trout Unlimited

Willistown Conservation Trust  

Comments on Environmental Justice Screening Tool (EJSCREEN)

PDF Version: Comments on Environmental Justice Screening Tool 

August 3, 2015

Via electronic mail
Mr. Kevin Olp
Environmental Policy Specialist
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Environmental Justice
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Mail Code: 2201A
Washington, DC 20460

Re: Comments on Environmental Justice Screening Tool (EJSCREEN)

Dear Mr. Olp:

The undersigned organizations of the Choose Clean Water Coalition (Coalition) commend you on the release of EJSCREEN. It is an innovative tool that will help our organizations identify the communities that need additional resources and advocacy assistance. The tool is free, web-based, and open to the public giving it an unparalleled ability for widespread use and education. Thanks to the potential of this tool, thousands or even millions of individuals can learn about the environmental issues in their community and organizations can better learn how to protect the people they serve. The Coalition applauds EJSCREEN for its peer reviewed scientific rigor, high resolution data, and applicability in various contexts. The demographic indicators and chosen pollutants are of particular interest to many in the environmental community.

The visual presentation of the tool is also commendable. We like the ability to easily generate reports through a user-friendly web interface. The color coding provides the ability to view different environmental indicators throughout American communities. Allowing the user to toggle between various environmental indicators, demographic indicators, and EJ indices is particularly useful.

EJSCREEN can become even more impactful and user friendly with some minor adjustments:

A. Functionality
The system does not allow users to view multiple map layers at once. For example, users can map ozone or PM 2.5, but not look at both to see what locations have high concentrations of both pollutants. This information is critical to determine cumulative pollution impacts on communities. The same goes for demographic data--you can view low-income or age data, but not at the same time. It would be most useful to layer pollutant and demographic data at the same time to identify low-income areas with high water pollution proximity. If the tool does in fact allow users to do this, the tool should make it clear how this layering of data can be done.

B. Creating a User-Friendly Site
Many novice or casual users might refrain from watching the long webinar or be intimidated by the depth of instructions on the site. The user guide is almost 50 pages long and is quite useful for more technically savvy visitors, but may leave others overwhelmed. Helpful hints on how to use the site and a more condensed “quick-user guide” would be very useful.

Many potential users might not know the meaning of all the acronyms of the indices, such as PM 2.5, TSDF, RMP, etc. We recommend defining these acronyms and classifying them under air, water, or land pollution categories.

The current format provides a link that will open a glossary of terms in another tab. We suggest that a short description of each of the environmental indicators appears when it is hovered over by the cursor. Further, including the glossary in the screening tool (instead of in another tab) will increase the interactivity and functionality of the site.

C. Providing Additional Tools
The tool provides the ability to help the user identify pollutants in their area. Ideally, EJSCREEN should provide tools and methods to help individuals protect their family and community, such as:
1. Provide links to organizations or agencies in the area that could help them.
2. Create “how to” pages on protecting yourself and your communities from these pollutants and link to generated reports.
Last, the EJSCREEN website should provide a forum where users can post and share experiences/lessons-learned using the tool in order to foster continued knowledge and growth throughout the Environmental Justice Community.

D. Other Comments
1. Add more water-related EJ tools than just the Water Discharge facility. EJSCREEN can use data from the Chesapeake Bay Program and others to include information on drinking water quality, fecal coliform bacteria in local streams, water quality levels, and more.
2. Allow a side-by-side comparison of areas in order to compare communities. For example, a user could compare a community in San Francisco with a community in Baltimore. Currently, the bookmark feature allows users to toggle between saved locations to make comparisons. However, side-by-side displays may be more useful.
3. EJSCREEN should be used when funding related projects in these regions.
Overall, EJSCREEN is an important tool that can be used by environmental groups in many ways. It can help us identify areas where we can target investments and community outreach to ensure that overburdened and underserved communities are receiving funding and program opportunities. EJSCREEN is also a necessary tool to help states and funders make decisions about where to fund projects equitably.

We are happy to discuss our comments on EJSCREEN further. Please contact Chante Coleman by phone at 443-927-8047 or by email at colemanc@nwf.org.

Respectfully submitted,

Blue Water Baltimore
Earth Forum of Howard County
Friends of Accotink Creek
Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
Maryland League of Conservation Voters
PennFuture
Sleepy Creek Watershed Association
Virginia Conservation Network
Waterkeepers Chesapeake
West Virginia Rivers Coalition