Black lawmakers and EPA launch environmental justice tour

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, announced this week they are launching a joint “environmental justice tour.”

The joint tour of EPA officials and lawmakers from the Black Caucus “will visit several areas throughout the country to highlight environmental justice challenges faced by Americans in all communities,” according to an EPA statement.

The first stop will be in Jackson, Miss., this week, where Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., will host the EPA administrator at a conference of regional mayors and community members and a tour of a water treatment facility.

“Environmental justice is a priority for EPA and must be part of every action we take,” Lisa Jackson said. “By meeting people where they are and talking to them about the challenges they face, we can broadly expand the conversation on environmentalism. Instead of being left further behind, these communities can begin work on solutions to improve their health, the environment and the economy.

Rep. Lee pointed to the particular impact of global warming on African Americans and other communities. “The consequences of global climate change, disastrous trends of environmental degradation, and our nation’s perilous dependence on fossil fuels are being felt in communities here in the United States and around the world, especially in communities of color,” she said.

Lee emphasized the need for African American communities to experience the benefits of green business and job creation. “African American communities must have increased access to opportunities in our ever-evolving green economy,” she said.

The EPA press statement noted that the “environmental justice movement was started by individuals, primarily people of color, who sought to address the inequity of environmental protection in their communities.”

Efforts to find solutions to inequalities in environmental risks that adversely affect communities of color led to the formation of the EPA’s Environmental Equity Workgroup. On top of this, Administrator Jackson has made addressing “the health and environmental burdens faced by communities disproportionately impacted by pollution” one of seven key priorities for her tenure as head of that agency.

The tour will also make stops in Georgia, Maryland and South Carolina.

Photo: Sierra Club volunteers at Henry G. Hill Wetland Conservation Area in Memphis, Tenn. / CC BY 2.0



Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of "Mythologies: A Political Economy of U.S. Literature, Settler Colonialism, and Racial Capitalism in the Long Nineteenth Century" (International Publishers) and "The Collectivity of Life" (Lexington Books).