WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)- The Justice Department announced Monday that it published its first annual progress report on environmental justice.
According to the communique, the report fulfills a landmark commitment to publish a yearly progress report to provide all Americans - regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income status - full protection under the nation's environmental, civil rights, and health laws.
DOJ said that it recognizes that low-income, minority and Native American communities are often disproportionately burdened with pollution, resulting in disproportionate health problems, greater obstacles to economic growth, and a lower quality of life.
"As reflected in the Department of Justice's Progress Report, we are integrating the principles of environmental justice into our work and will continue to take steps to ensure that every American has full protection under the nation's environmental, civil rights, and health laws," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.
"In fulfilling our mission, the Department is guided by the principles of environmental justice: That all Americans deserve a safe and healthy environment in which to live their lives and a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their wellbeing."
DOJ emphasized in the announcement a few accomplishments.
The Justice Department says it played a key role in developing the interagency memorandum of understanding on environmental justice, which was signed by 17 federal agencies, and also plays an ongoing role in the Interagency Workgroup on Environmental Justice.
Representatives from the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorneys' Offices have met with dozens of communities across the country who have been affected by pollution, environmental justice advocates, the corporate community, and other stakeholders.
The Community Relations Service facilitated participation in environmental decision-making through mediation and conciliation for community leaders and state and local officials.
The Justice Department says it is working to achieve meaningful results for communities in its cases. In cities across the U.S., such as St. Louis and Jersey City, N.J., the Department brought cases to address illegal discharges from aging municipal wastewater and stormwater systems.
Settlements in these cases improve public health and the environment for the entire affected community, while also addressing the specific impacts violations have on disproportionately burdened communities, the DOJ says.
Litigation results benefiting communities across the country - in Massachusetts, Washington, Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Indiana, and many other states - are detailed in our report.
The formal name for the document is the 2011 Annual Implementation Progress Report on Environmental Justice. According to Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, "The Department has fully embraced the goals of environmental justice. Every American deserves clean air, water, and land in the places where they live, work, play, and learn. We have made significant strides in achieving these goals, but work remains, and our efforts continue."
Dr. Kenneth P. Green is a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. He has studied energy and energy-related
environmental policy for nearly 20 years.
"From an empirical and economic standpoint, the arguments being advanced do not reflect reality," he said. "Companies and people will locate where land prices are less expensive. Both of them benefit from lower land prices. If companies did not go there the jobs and the community revenues would not go there either."