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Though polluters and their apologists on the Right love to bash the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a bastion of leftists running roughshod over innocent businesses, the truth is quite frequently the opposite. Indeed, the agency is often guilty of bending over backwards to dismiss the complaints of pollution victims. This is particularly true for poor people of color who, as has been demonstrated time and again, are typically the first to suffer when pollution invades places of human habitation.

A 2015 report from the Center for Public Integrity (“Environmental racism persists, and the EPA is one reason why: The EPA office tasked with policing alleged civil rights abuses is chronically unresponsive to complaints and has never made a formal finding of discrimination”) made the following remarkable findings:

  • Ninety-five percent of the time, communities of color living in the shadows of polluters find their claims of civil-rights violations denied by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • In its 22-year history of processing environmental discrimination complaints, the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has reviewed nearly 300 complaints filed by minority communities. It has never once made a formal finding of a civil-rights violation.
  • While touting the importance of tackling environmental racism, the EPA has closed only 12 cases alleging such discrimination with official action on behalf of minority communities. EPA officials have negotiated settlements in nine cases; the rest were resolved among the complainants and targeted agencies.
  • At least 17 communities are still waiting in limbo — more than half for over a decade — as the EPA reviews their civil rights claims. The delays have left residents, many forced to endure unsafe pollution levels, without recourse.
  • The EPA’s civil rights office takes, on average, 350 days to decide whether to investigate a case. In nine cases, the agency took so long — an average of 367 days — that investigators had to dismiss the allegations as “moot.”

In the aftermath of the report and numerous complaints about the EPA’s performance in this vital area, the agency has proposed some new rules to revise its procedures that it claims are designed to make things better. Unfortunately, advocates representing victims are not so sure.

This Friday, the topic will be aired in public as the EPA Office of Civil Rights holds a public hearing in Research Triangle Park — one of five sites around the nation to do so. Advocates for victims of pollution and environmental racism are calling on citizens and advocates to attend the event and speak out. This is from news release issued by the UNC Center for Civil Rights earlier today: Read More

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Hofmann ForestFor those interested in the growing movement to fight back against the incredibly troubling decision by N. C. State to sell-off 79,000 acres forest that it has owned almost 80 years, there will be a protest this Friday on the N.C. State campus in the Brickyard from noon to 2:00 p.m.

As the organizers have described it:

“This is your chance to help save a 79,000 acre forest that has been owned for the benefit of NCSU for 80 years. The University has just signed a contract to sell Hofmann to an Illinois corn farmer, who has big plans for destroy the forest to grow food for pigs (we’re not making this up!).”

Protesters have also organized a Facebook page and petition that can be accessed by clicking here.

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LandfillThe state Senate’s recent approval of legislation that would loosen state regulations on the location of giant landfills — a change conservative lawmakers and industry lobbysists claim is necessary in order for new landfills to be built in the state —  appears to be sparking a loud and growing chorus of opponents.

This morning, the Winston-Salem Journal became the latest newspaper to editorialize against the bill, stating: 

“North Carolina need not become the dumping ground for other states. As for our own trash, we can first greatly reduce its volume and then find appropriate places for new landfills closer to the time when they are needed.”

Meanwhile, environmental advocates have launched a grassroots campaign to defeat the bill before it becomes law. According to a new alert sent out by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters earlier today, the legislation includes provisions that would: Read More

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The NAACP recently released a report, Coal Blooded, which documents the “Environmental Justice Performance” of all coal fired power plants around the country. The report ranks the 378 plants using EPA toxic emissions data and demographic information – race, income and population density. The report shows that the six million Americans living near coal plants have an average income lower than the national average and 39% are people of color – whereas people of color make up 36% of the US population. Read More