Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $25,000 grant to the Louisiana Bucket Brigade for air-quality sampling, as part of an initiative which is funneling millions annually into local organizations for environmental justice.
According to the EPA, environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has made environmental justice a priority at the agency, issuing millions of dollars to local and tribal organizations and making plans to reach their aforementioned end.
Due to its ambiguous definition, the amount of money distributed for environmental justice is difficult to track.
Many of these justice grants, however, have been issued through Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, which started in 1994 and has awarded more than $21 million in funding to 1,200 local organizations for environmental justice. In 2010, the Obama administration distributed $1.9 million, more than another year in over a decade.
At the beginning of this year, the EPA awarded another $7 million to “scientists around the country,” as part of the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants program, to study how pollution affects “poor and underserved communities.” (RELATED: Obama administration marches forward with green agenda despite Solyndra scandal)
“EPA made a public commitment in 2010 to take action to address contributors to disproportionate environmental health impacts,” said Dr. Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development in a statement. “This research could pave the way for more interdisciplinary work that is responsive to community concerns and environmental justice.”
In August, the EPA awarded $6.2 million to low-income neighborhoods in national environmental workforce development and job training grants “to recruit, train, and place unemployed, predominantly low-income residents in polluted areas.”
“We’re looking to the people and community organizations who know these areas best to find the places where green jobs and environmental protection are going to do the most good,” said Jackson in a statement. “Creating good green jobs proves that we don’t have to choose between cleaning up our air and our water or creating jobs in our communities. We’re showing that it’s possible to do both at the same time.”
On Wednesday the agency issued a new blueprint, called Plan EJ 2014, to make environmental justice a priority in its “programs, policies, and activities.”
“One could wish that we could wave a wand and mandate environmental justice everywhere, but instead what Plan EJ 2014 does is have specific steps that we’re committing to — to continue to put information out on how to write permits, how to do an EJ analysis quantitatively when you write a permit, or how to do enforcement to ensure that we’re concentrating on those communities that have disproportionate impact and that have been neglected,” Jackson told The Root in late August.
Conservatives have raised concerns, however, about whether these grants are truly a good use of taxpayer money and if the focus on environmental justice will just result in more red-tape and regulations — especially when the EPA already has a Civil Enforcement Division and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division “enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.”
In October, CNS News chronicled the distribution of the nearly $2 million dollars that went to 76 community organizations in 2010, alleging that some of the grants ended up in the coffers of “far-left groups.”
The Hill reported on Monday that House Republicans have introduced a bill to eliminate yet another program devoted to environmental justice, called the Environmental Justice eco-Ambassador Program.
“At a time when millions of Americans cannot find work and are saddled with record deficits and crippling environmental regulations, spending $6,000 of taxpayer money per student to act as tools of this administration’s radical policies is clearly not acceptable — nor is it ever the role of the federal government to indoctrinate,” said the legislation’s sponsor Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo.
According to Judicial Watch, under Jackson’s tenure, the EPA’s budget has increased 34 percent (to $10.3 billion) with almost 50 percent of funds being distributed to state environmental programs, nonprofits and educational organization.
Judicial Watch has been one of the most vocal critics of the EPA’s use of taxpayer money for environmental justice. The group’s president, Tom Fitton told TheDC that the EPA is engaged in a “racket,” funding left-wing groups under the auspices of environmental justice.
“Whatever the specifics of the grant are almost irrelevant to the principle of keeping the left-wing infrastructure alive to provide support for the President’s programs and his reelection, and the reelection of other liberal allies of these groups,” he said.
Nevertheless, environmental justice will remain an integral part of this administration’s governance.
“In the years ahead, I want to see a full-scale revitalization of what we do and how we think about environmental justice,” Jackson said in a 2009 speech before the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, “This is not an issue we can afford to relegate to the margins. It has to be part of our thinking in every decision we make. And not just at EPA. We need the nonprofit sector. We need the academic sector. And we need the private sector. It’s absolutely essential that we have a wide range of voices raising these issues.”