Week Nine: Communities for a Better Environment

The Office on Environmental Justice was created by the George H.W. Bush administration and aims to reduce the disproportionate impacts environmental problems have on minority, low-income, and indigenous people. Mustafa Ali, founding member and head of the EPA’s Office on Environmental Justice, resigned on March 7th, in advance of the release of the Trump administration’s proposed budget which was expected to eliminate all funding for the Office. Ali tried to make a financial business case to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to spare the Office, citing a Spartanburg, SC example in which a community experiencing high cancer rates from abandoned toxic dump sites turned a $20,000 federal grant into $270 million from investors and government to revitalize the city. Ali later remarked in his resignation letter, “When I hear we are considering making cuts to grant programs like the EJ [Environmental Justice] small grants…I wonder if our new leadership has had the opportunity to converse with those who need our help the most.” Ali’s plea apparently fell short, as the proposed budget released on March 16th cuts all funding for the Office on Environmental Justice. Let your members of Congress know that Environmental Justice is important.

This week, we donated to Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), an environmental justice nonprofit that prevents pollution and promotes healthy green building. CBE focuses its work where conventional policies of profits-before-people do the most harm — in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. CBE’s victories since the 1970’s include winning settlements against oil companies forcing them to clean-up over 700 contaminated sites, achieving stringent refinery flaring regulations, preventing refineries from processing the dirtiest grades of crude oil, and stopping chrome-plating factories from emitting highly toxic pollutants next to schools.

Everyone deserves to live in communities that are safe from contamination, pollutants, and toxic chemicals. Access to clean water, clean air, and a clean environment in which to raise your family and build your life is not a privilege for the wealthy, but a basic human right for everyone. Sadly, we believe that environmental injustice is only going to become more and more widespread as time goes on, because climate change and the degradation of our planet is one of the most pressing issues facing us today. Now more than ever, it is crucial to support organizations like CBE that help people take back their communities from harm done by profit-obsessed companies.