The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report Friday (September 24) on the EPA and its enforcement of environmental justice, and they found that the agency is not protecting communities in need.
The 230-page report states:
First, EPA continues to struggle to provide procedural and substantive relief to communities of color impacted by pollution. EPA’s deficiencies have resulted in a lack of substantive results that would improve the lives of people living in already overly burdened communities. Second, EPA does not take action when faced with environmental justice concerns until forced to do so. When they do act, they make easy choices and outsource any environmental justice responsibilities onto others.
The report is a result of briefings the commission held in January and February 2016 with EPA officials, scholars and environmental justice advocates. They specifically looked at the EPA’s Final Coal Ash Rule, which didn’t declare the dirty coal byproduct as a hazardous waste, and its enforcement of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Some of the report's major findings include:
- People of color and low-income communities are often hit the hardest by waste disposal facilities—like where power plants dump coal ash—and lack the political know-how to improve their situation.
- The EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has never made a formal finding of discrimination.
- Heavy metals found in coal ash (like arsenic and mercury) are known as hazardous substances, yet coal ash is not listed as hazardous waste. “The EPA did not fully consider the civil rights impacts in approving the movement and storage of coal ash,” says the commission.