|Date:||12 May 1998 14:23:44|
Although it is dealing with issues beyond cleaning up contaminated sites, the following NYTimes article may be of interest to people trying to redevelop brownfields. This summary is from the EPA Library. _______________________________________________ Pollution Policy Is Unfair Burden, States Tell E.P.A. The New York Times, May 10, 1998, pA1, A16. State governments and major industrial groups are challenging a new EPA policy which was designed to prevent minority neighborhoods from receiving an unfair share of incinerators, dumps and other sources of pollution. The policy addresses increasing complaints from civil rights and environmental advocates that state agencies are guilty of racial prejudice in granting pollution permits. Opponents of the policy are urging the Clinton Administration to withdraw it, claiming that it would hamstring state and local governments, encourage frivolous lawsuits and discourage companies from investing in financially distressed cities. The opposition puts the Clinton Administration in a bind because many of its allies in the environmental and civil rights movements support the administration's goal of trying to reduce pollution near the disadvantaged. On Earth Day, Vice President Gore asked all Federal agencies to re-emphasize the Administration's policy, stating "there have been strong expressions of concern from community leaders that our efforts to date have not been sufficient." EPA's policy provides detailed guidance on complaints filed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits state agencies that receive Federal funding from taking actions that unfairly burden racial minorities. Even when a pollution permit passes ordinary tests of environmental laws, it might be illegal under the civil rights law if it contributes to a pattern of pollution in a minority neighborhood. Trying to address the problems of pollution in poor and minority communities using pollution permits has caused an unusually vehement response from business groups. Business groups and state officials claim the policy will leave their organizations vulnerable. With every permit that comes up for renewal, a company could be held hostage by a civil rights complaint. "It runs contrary to the Federal programs designed to bring jobs and cleanup to low-income and minority areas," said William Kovacs, vice president for environment at the United States Chamber of Commerce. "For the last 10 years, we have been trying to move financial resources into urban areas, trying to encourage jobs and growth. No one is looking at the long-term economic benefit." Civil rights groups believe EPA's new policy is too weak, however. "Many of us have been pressuring EPA to issue such a guidance for many years," said Luke Cole, general counsel for the Center of Race, Poverty and the Environment. "The present guidance is deeply flawed in a number of respects." He said the agency should clarify that discrimination could occur not just by exposure to pollutants but also by increased health risks, changes in land values and other changes in the quality of life. The first large case being considered under the policy involves a chemical plant that wants to build in the industrial corridor between Baton Rouge, La and New Orleans. EPA held up air pollution permits for the plant on technical grounds and has been reviewing the complaints of civil rights groups. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, California, Virginia, Oregon, Wisconsin and Louisiana have formally written in opposition to the policy. The Environmental Council of the States has also passed a resolution saying that the agency's policy conflicts with state and local land use policies. "This guidance would have the effect of working against efforts to achieve environmental protection and promote sustainable economic development," said the resolution. The National Environmental Justice Advisory council urged the agency to strengthen the new policy. "Rescinding the document, as has been suggested by some, is not a positive approach and should be avoided," said the advisory group. "The Administration is committed to enforcing Title VI and protecting the legal rights of communities that might be disproportionately affected, but at the same time allows for economic growth and prosperity, and is not stifling," said Laura Ucelli, EPA's spokesperson. "With the guidance, nothing is final. It did open a dialogue and does provide a structure for us to refine."
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