EPA, advocates convene to discuss progress, new efforts

Source: Emily Yehle, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Environmental justice advocates will flock to the Washington, D.C., area today to air their grievances — and offer solutions — at a public meeting of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

The two-day conference serves as a one-stop shop for environmental justice advocates to learn about the agency’s progress and report on the problems of their communities. It will feature remarks from several U.S. EPA officials involved in ensuring that low-income and minority communities aren’t disproportionately affected by environmental hazards.

Lisa Garcia, EPA’s associate assistant administrator for environmental justice, will kick off the conference today with an update on “EJ 2014,” EPA’s plan to integrate environmental justice policies into nine areas including rulemaking and permitting.

Rafael DeLeon, director of EPA’s Office of Civil Rights, will also discuss a supplement to the plan to improve how the agency handles Title VI complaints. The office has come under fire in recent years for its years-long backlog of the complaints, which are named after a provision in the Civil Rights Act that prohibits recipients of federal funding from using the money in a discriminatory way (Greenwire, Jan. 20).

Other issues that will come up at the conference are environmental justice issues in hydraulic fracturing, tribal programs and research programs. One lecture will focus on a 2008 report that asserts that nail salon workers are exposed to a “range of toxic chemicals in salon products that are linked to respiratory, cognitive and reproductive illnesses and conditions.”

There will also be some limited discussion on the enforcement of environmental justice violations, with remarks from Ignacia Moreno, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. EPA enforcement chief Cynthia Giles will also provide welcoming remarks, just a few hours before another engagement: as the luncheon keynote speaker at a National Environmental Enforcement Information virtual meeting

Schedule: The NEJAC meeting will be Tuesday, July 24, and Wednesday, July 25, at the EPA Potomac Yard Conference Center in Arlington, Va.