In 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency provided $1 million in grants to 46 different non-profit and tribal organizations to promote what it called “environmental justice.” Since 1994, a little-noticed EPA program has handed out a total of $23 million in such grants to 1,253 organizations, for stated purposes that observers are questioning.
President Bill Clinton and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) were responsible for implementing “environmental justice” as part of the EPA’s mission. In early 1990, following a lobbying push by the CBC, the EPA established the Environmental Equity Workgroup. In 1994 it was renamed the Office of Environmental Justice.
In February of that year, Clinton signed an executive order requiring all federal agencies to develop environmental justice strategies. The order established an interagency working group comprised of the heads of 11 departments and agencies and several White House offices.
As a result, the EPA has spent millions each year to promote its “environmental justice” vision to Americans by awarding cash grants to community-based activist groups.
Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Christopher Horner told The Daily Caller that the Obama administration’s EPA is “abus[ing] environmental justice as badly as they’re abusing other grants of authority.”
The EPA’s grants have gone beyond organic gardening projects and tree plantings. One financial award went to the Cleveland Tenants Organization for fighting bed-bug infestations. Another paid the Florida-based Institute for Community Collaboration train teenagers to become environmentalists.
The Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island received money in July 2010 to organize barn-raising events. That same month, Groundwork Somerville was funded to persuade suburban Bostonians to replace their incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient — and more expensive – compact fluorescent bulbs.
In December 2011, Congress overturned a planned government-mandated phase-out of the older Thomas Edison-style bulbs.
West Harlem Environmental Action received taxpayer dollars to educate New Yorkers about the “local challenges posed by climate change (i.e., sea-level rise and extreme weather events).”
Federal dollars also paid a Utah dance company to teach children in 10 elementary schools how to dance for environmental justice. “Kinesthetic learning,” the EPA reports, “will be used to examine air quality issues and encourage youth and their families to adopt healthy living practices.”
The EPA funds “green jobs” projects in Hawaii, summer initiatives to teach middle-schoolers about global warming, and at least one push to create an “urban wetland” on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, a community organizing non-profit, received federal money to push for “anti-idling” policies affecting diesel truck drivers.
Like several other grant recipients identified on the EPA’s website, Greenaction subscribes to a 1991 “Principles of Environmental Justice” manifesto that affirms “the sacredness of our Mother Earth” and the “political, economic and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the genocide of our peoples.”
The involvement of taxpayer dollars in environmental justice initiatives is justifiable, according to Lisa Garcia, the senior environmental justice adviser to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.
“Community-based action and participation in environmental decision-making are critical to building healthy and sustainable communities,” Garcia said in a December press release. “By supporting local environmental justice projects in under-served communities, we are expanding the conversation on environmentalism and advancing environmental justice in communities across the nation.”
But Steve Milloy, editor of JunkScience.com and author of “Green Hell” told TheDC that the EPA is stretching its mandate beyond what government should fund.
“The notion of environmental justice is a canard,” Milloy said. “Poor people are harmed by their poverty, not the environment — and there is no scientific evidence to the contrary. The sad plight of the poor is only ameliorated by economic development, ironically of the sort the environmentalists abhor and the EPA tends to block.”
“We are seeing far greater intrusion into the permitting process based on environmental justice claims,” CEI’s Horner added. “It appears to be a new element in their war on coal — abundance can never be allowed — and coordinated with supplemental complaints filed by environmental groups.”
“Typically,” Horner said, “their science is not real.”
Horner has contended, most notably in his book “Power Grab,” that the EPA under President Obama based its policies on claims by former green-jobs advisor Van Jones that, in Horner’s words, “white people are forcing pollution into minority communities with nefarious intent.”
Jones, the onetime Marxist whose controversial suggestion that the 9/11 terror attacks may have been an inside job made him a lightning rod for Republicans, resigned his position with the White House Council on Environmental Quality in September 2009.