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December 15, 2005

Waiting to inhale

Discrimination in the air:

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) – A dozen years after former President Clinton ordered the government to attack environmental injustices, black and poor Americans still are far more likely to breathe factory pollution that poses the greatest health risk, an Associated Press analysis found.
The AP analysis of government pollution, health and census data found that blacks are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial air pollution is suspected of causing the most health problems.
Residents in neighborhoods with the highest pollution health risk also tend to be poorer, less educated and more often unemployed than those elsewhere in the country, AP found.
… The AP analyzed data from a little-known Environmental Protection Agency project that assigns risk scores for industrial air pollution in every square kilometer of the United States. With help from government scientists, AP mapped the risk scores for every neighborhood counted by the Census Bureau in 2000.
… In 19 states, the AP found that blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to live in neighborhoods where air pollution seems to pose the greatest health danger.
More than half the blacks in Kansas and nearly half of Missouri’s black population, for example, live in the 10 percent of their states’ neighborhoods with the highest risk scores. Similarly, more than four out of every 10 blacks in Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon and Wisconsin live in high-risk neighborhoods.

Clinton’s 1993 “environmental justice” initiative ordered federal agencies to ensure that minorities and the poor aren’t disproportionately exposed to pollution and other environmental hazards. But as the AP points out, that order was ignored:

  • The EPA’s inspector general reported last year that the agency hadn’t implemented Clinton’s order nor “consistently integrated environmental justice into its day-to-day operations.” The watchdog said EPA had not identified minority and low income groups nor developed any criteria to determine if those groups were bearing more than their share of health risks from environmental hazards.
  • The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded two years ago after an investigation that “federal agencies still have neither fully incorporated environmental justice into their core missions nor established accountability and performance outcomes for programs and activities.”

The Bush adminstration, of course, has done all it can to undermine pollution and other environmental controls, and according to the National Resources Defense Council “threatens to do more damage to our environmental protections than any other [ad-ministration] in U.S. history.” So no surprise that the Bush EPA doesn’t see a problem, and says its mission isn’t to alleviate pollution among specific racial or income groups:

“We’re going to get at those folks to make sure that they are going to be breathing clean air, and that’s regardless of their race, creed or color,” said Deputy EPA Administrator Marcus Peacock.

Just not any time soon.

Posted by Stephen at 11:59 AM in Energy + environment | Health | Humanity | Politics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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