From the report, Office of Inspector General recommendations:
We made four recommendations to EPA to address these issues. We recommended that EPA:
(1) require program and regional offices to determine where environmental justice reviews are needed and establish a plan to complete them;
(2) ensure that environmental justice reviews determine whether EPA programs, policies, and activities may have a disproportionately high and adverse health or environmental impact on minority and low-income populations;
(3) develop specific environmental justice review guidance that includes protocols, a framework, or directions; and
(4) designate a responsible office to compile the results of environmental justice reviews and make recommendations to EPA senior leadership.
EPA agreed with our recommendations and established milestones for completing those actions.
In January 2008, EPA reported completing each corrective action in response to the recommendations. Corrective actions included the creation of guidance for conducting environmental justice reviews and the formation of a workgroup representing programs and regions to develop environmental justice action plans.
In our 2004 review, we reported on how EPA was integrating environmental justice into its operations.
We concluded that EPA had not fully implemented the Executive Order and was not consistently integrating environmental justice into its day-to-day operations at that time. We found that EPA had not identified minority and low-income communities or defined the term “disproportionately impacted.”
Moreover, in 2001, EPA restated its commitment to environmental justice in a manner that did not emphasize minority and low-income populations, which we believed was the intent of the Order.
In the absence of environmental justice definitions, criteria, or standards from EPA, many regional and program offices individually took steps to implement environmental justice policies. The result was inconsistency in determining environmental justice communities across EPA regions and programs. Thus, the implementation of environmental justice actions was dependent, in part, on where a person lived.
We made 12 recommendations to EPA to address the issues we raised.
Four key recommendations were:
(1) reaffirm the Executive Order as a priority;
(2) establish specific timeframes for developing definitions, goals, and measurements;
(3) develop a comprehensive strategic plan; and
(4) determine if adequate resources are being applied to implement environmental justice.
EPA disagreed with 11 of the 12 recommendations.
EPA did agree to perform a comprehensive study of program and regional offices’ funding and staffing for environmental justice to ensure that adequate resources are available to fully implement its environmental justice plans. In May 2004, EPA issued its report, Environmental Justice Program Comprehensive Management Study, conducted by a contractor.
Executive Order 12898 directs federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of its mission to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law. The Executive Order states that it is intended only to improve the internal management of the executive branch and is not intended to, nor does it create any right, benefit, or trust responsibility, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity by a party against the United States, its agencies, its officers, or any person. Consequently there are no enforcement provisions for environmental justice guidelines.
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EPA closed the investigations into the Dickson, Tennessee landfill, Perry County, Alabama coal ash dump site, Chemical mercury contamination Mcintosh, Alabama and the Kingston Valley Tennessee coal ash spill (the wastes are what is going to Perry County), among others.
"EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made environmental justice one of her top seven priorities and has created an office to promote environmental justice for affected groups and communities throughout the United States. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies."
This report seems to stand on the EPA not committing wrongdoing in these complaints because they were not involved with the sites. It also states, in a few of them, that the state environmental agencies are handling the problems and what they will do to improve their monitoring and compliance. Fine, just continue to let the fox guard the proverbial hen house.
There are far too many instances of the huge problems with state agencies who are more or less in it for the permitting fees, revenue from fines and even revenue from the operations in most landfills among other "conflicts of interest" in these agencies.
ADEM is notorious for its close ties to big business, which is why the EPA has been petitioned to remove ADEMs water control. The jury is still out on that legal action, but we do not hold out much hope it will succeed if Region 4's history is our guide.
In short, they seem to operate more in conjunction with the polluters and than in upholding environmental regulations and environmental justice for the citizens who need it the most.
Texas is a prime example of what can change when the regional EPA systems say "enough" and come in and take over the process. Though that victory in Texas may not hold for long, it has already had reverberating effects for the better in the interest of the citizens and their environment:
More great reporting from the Texas Observer's Forrest Wilder
Until pressure is put on Region 4 from Washington, the citizens of Alabama will never be able to celebrate a victory such as the one recently won in Texas.
It is long overdue that the EPA takes control of some of ADEMs authority, if not all of it, because they refuse to do their true job and act as environmental managers. Instead, similar to the US Army Corps of Engineers, they have become the enablers for big business.
But, if Region 4 does decide to finally act in the interest of the environment and the public good, that tiger will have to have teeth and not be made of paper.