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Kerry, House and Senate Environmental Leaders Call for Administration To Reverse Backwards March on Environmental Justice

Location: Washington, DC

Kerry, House and Senate Environmental Leaders Call for Administration To Reverse Backwards March on Environmental Justice

Bush Plan fails to address real environmental justice problems facing our nation's communities

Washington, DC - Several members of Congress -- led by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Representatives Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.) and Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) -- today are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to drastically improve the shortcomings in the agency's environmental justice plan. In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, nearly 80 legislators asked the EPA to reverse its failed course on environmental justice and start putting forth a real plan to improve the dangerous effects of pollution in our most vulnerable communities.

The EPA's draft Environmental Justice Strategic Plan fails to reduce the existing disparate impacts of pollution on low-income and minority communities and may actually contribute to the future increase of these impacts. Specifically, the Strategic Plan disregards race as an environmental justice consideration and fails to provide the necessary tools to identify environmental justice communities, ignoring those communities most harshly affected by pollution. The Strategic Plan also ignores key criticisms of existing efforts at the EPA made by the Inspector General in 2004.

"At a time when we should be working to help the communities bearing the brunt of pollution problems, this administration is turning the idea of environmental justice on its head. By ignoring our minority and low-income communities the Bush Administration is reversing a commitment made to communities across our country," Senator Kerry said. "It's time the EPA starts listening to its own Inspector General, changes course and puts forth a workable solution to bring clean air and water to all our communities."

"The Environmental Protection Agency's strategy plan moves environmental justice and the efforts to help low-income communities in the wrong direction. I am concerned that if implemented, it would rollback environmental justice programs and worsen the health of vulnerable working class communities. I hope that the EPA will work with us to come up with a better plan," said Rep. Hilda Solis, ranking Democrat on the House Environment and Hazardous Materials subcommittee.

"It is beyond irresponsible for the administration to suggest that this plan takes the necessary steps to improve the health and well-being of America's most vulnerable," said Rep. Hastings. "It isn't that EPA doesn't know what problems exist, it's their willingness to do anything about it. Shame on them."

Senator Durbin closed by noting, "Environmental justice should mean more protection, not less, for those Americans most affected by pollution. The Bush Administration continues to disregard years of evidence which show that low-income and minority communities are bearing an unfair burden of pollution in America. The Bush Administration needs to move forward with a plan to guarantee that all Americans live in a clean and safe environment."

The Strategic Plan has also been criticized by dozens of health, civil rights, and environmental groups, including the American Lung Association, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Hispanic Environmental Council, Latino Issues Forum, Earth Justice, and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.

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