The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to provide adequate protection to minorities and low-income families who are disproportionately affected by pollution, according to a report released last week by EPA's Inspector General (IG).
The IG's report concludes that an Executive Order on Environmental Justice, signed by President Clinton 10 years ago, has yet to be adequately carried out.
Moreover, the report discloses that, two years ago, the Bush Administration reinterpreted the order without sufficient authority in an effort to shift emphasis away from the very populations the order was written to protect. The administration then defended its action by stating that it would provide environmental justice to “everyone.”
The IG's report dismissed this defense as misleading. “We believe the Executive Order was specifically issued to provide environmental justice to minority and/or low-income populations due to concerns that those populations had been disproportionately impacted by environmental risk.”
The report points out that providing justice to “everyone” was already the EPA's mission prior to the 1994 order. The report further finds that the EPA has yet to develop “a clear vision or comprehensive strategic plan, and has not established values, goals, expectations and performance measurements” for integrating environmental justice into its policies.